Back to school already?
Summer might officially be just a few weeks old, but malls and stores from the Keys to the Panhandle will have fall on the mind next weekend.
Floridas annual sales-tax holiday which runs Aug. 3-5 comes early this year, the states response to a few school districts decision to start classes the second week of August.
The first day of school in Miami-Dade and Broward counties isnt until Aug. 20, so parents hoping to save a few cents per dollar on clothes, shoes and school supplies will have to shop well in advance. The tax holiday, which applies to most but not all purchases, has traditionally fallen a week later.
Regardless of when it occurs, the annual back-to-school tax break is always a busy weekend for retailers. Many hold sales and in-store promotions to attract choosy deal-seekers, even strategically pricing certain goods so that they fall just under the tax-free cap. Over the three-day holiday, the state waves sales tax on clothing and shoes priced $75 and lower, and school supplies up to $15.
Back-to-school shopping season is really the second busiest time for retailers, said John Fleming, spokesman for the Florida Retail Federation. Its almost an atmosphere like Black Friday.
The FRF expects statewide sales growth over 2011s figures, despite a recent drop in national consumer confidence fueled by sluggish economic news. The National Retail Federation has estimated parents of K-12 students will spend $30.3 billion on back-to-school shopping this summer.
In Florida, much of that business will occur next weekend and the big box stores are promoting accordingly.
Dadeland Mall will host a fashion show on Friday. There will be a carnival with bounce houses, games and a treasure hunt next Saturday and Sunday at The Falls.
Macys always has the most-wanted new fashion and everyday values for the back-to-school season, said Melissa Goff, a spokeswoman for the department store. The upcoming sales tax holiday provides our customers the opportunity to purchase the items they need and want at an additional savings as they prepare to head back to the classroom.
Fleming acknowledges that the tax savings on most minor purchases is minimal yet added that many businesses make a trip to the mall worthwhile with competitive price-cutting.
But a warning to shopaholics: Not everything is tax-free.
Any item over the price thresholds will be assessed the normal rate. Sporting goods like shoulder pads and roller blades will be taxed. Accessories like watches, umbrellas and handkerchiefs are also not included in the holiday.
And dont expect a price break on that Mickey T-shirt. The tax forgiveness will not apply at amusement parks, hotels and airports (likely to ensure visiting tourists dont cash in on an arrangement designed to benefit Florida residents).
Still, none of that will stop many parents from picking up something that wasnt on their kids list.
What we find is there is a stimulus affect to having a tax holiday, Fleming added. It does encourage consumers to spend a little more on items that are not tax-exempt. The state does get a little boost in tax revenue as a result.