Justine Griffin / Herald-Tribune – It’s less than a month until the back-to-school holiday shopping season kicks off with a tax-free weekend for Florida shoppers.
School supplies, clothing and some electronics will be exempt from sales tax at retail stores in Florida Aug. 1-3.
Shoppers won’t pay sales tax when they buy apparel — up to $100 per item, which is new this year — and on computers and other electronics that cost $750 or less
School supplies, such as pencils, backpacks and notepads, are tax-free at $15 per item.
Things that are not tax exempt include jewelry, office equipment such as copiers or fax machines, cameras, printer paper and smartphones.
The back-to-school shopping season is the second-busiest time of the year for retail stores after Christmas. It brings in $72 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, and analysts expect the season to be up this year, but not by much.
“Sales will be up compared to 2013, but by a small percentage. Maybe 2 percent over last year,” said Jeff Green, a retail analyst with Phoenix-based Jeff Green Partners. “The fundamentals of the economy are no better than they were last year, and consumers are still concerned about inflation. We’re already seeing it in the grocery store.”
NRF’s 2013 back-to-school survey showed that shoppers were looking for deals earlier than ever. The survey showed that 24 percent of shoppers with children in school — up 15 percent from 2007 — said they started browsing and buying at least two months before school started.
So retailers are offering deals earlier and earlier.
Walmart and Target started their back-to-school promotions before the Fourth of July this year. Target is giving away $15 gift cards to shoppers who buy $75 worth of bedding for college-bound students. Walmart introduced Web-based tools enabling shoppers to find items based on school grade and to search for bundled items such as notebooks and flash drives, according to the NRF.
L.L. Bean is offering 25 percent off all backpacks this month. Macy’s continues to reach consumers through social media by promoting its hashtag, #MacysBTS on Twitter, to share what’s trending.
Apple, too, has big promotions this year: the iPad and iPhone maker is offering a $100 gift card to college students who purchase a Mac and a $50 gift card for students who buy an iPod or iPhone.
Sneak Peeks of the Mall at University Town Center
Macy’s will host a charity-drive sneak peek event at its new store in the Mall at University Town Center from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 11.
The event will benefit several dozen local charities, including A Life Story Foundation, Art Center Sarasota Inc. and Brides Against Breast Cancer.
Customers must buy a $5 ticket to enter, but they receive a coupon for $10 off a $25 purchase. Patrons can also enjoy free food and entertainment and have the chance to win a $500 Macy’s gift card. Tickets are on sale at Habitat for Humanity Sarasota.
Saks Fifth Avenue will host a grand opening party inside its 80,000-square-foot department store at the Mall at University Town Center from 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 14.
The Saks preview is a Key to the Cure fundraiser, with proceeds going to Women’s Cancer Care Programs at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
Tickets cost $100 per person, or $150 per patron. For more information, call the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation at 917-1286. To register, go to http://bit.ly/htsignup.
The mall will host its own sneak-peek charity event from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 15 — the night before the mall opens to the rest of the public.
Taubman Centers officials expected to sell 2,500 tickets, at $100 a pop, for the event, which is already sold out.
All proceeds will benefit local Southwest Florida nonprofit groups, including All Faiths Food Bank, Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, The Circus Arts Conservatory/Sailor Circus and Florida Studio Theater.
Guests will receive a $20 mall gift card at check-in.