Sales-tax holiday inspires yawns from some buyers

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Politicians have been hyping it. Retailers say they eagerly await it. And some parents act like their pocketbooks are depending on it.

Others, however, are reacting to next month's sales-tax holiday on school-related items with a different sentiment: ho-hum.

"Most sales that the stores have are better than just a 7 percent discount," said Leanne Grant, a mother and teacher at Scott City Middle School. "If I heard about a sale where they were only taking 6 percent off, it wouldn't be a big draw for me."

The tax holiday in Cape Girardeau -- the third in as many years -- is Aug. 4 through 6, a weekend when clothing and accessories, footwear, school supplies and computers are exempt from state and local taxes, or roughly 6.225 percent.

That's just not enough of a discount to get Debbie Lewis to the stores, despite the fact that she has a child at Central High School in Cape Girardeau and another about to enter college this fall.

"I guess a lot of people feel like they're getting a good deal," Lewis said. "But I'm not sure it's that worthwhile. I'd rather get the shopping done earlier than fight those crowds."

Big sales that really draw out customers are usually as high as 50 percent off, said Dr. Don Jung, who teaches advertising courses at Southeast Missouri State University.

"Seven percent probably makes a difference for some," he said. "But, personally, I think it's more of a political thing than an actual one."

And it's probably not even a huge difference to retailers, said Dr. Bruce Domazlicky, director for the university's Center for Economic and Business Research.

Domazlicky said that retailers probably aren't seeing a big increase in overall sales, suggesting instead that they simply wait until that weekend to buy items.

"What they're probably seeing is sales being shifted in time," he said. "If they're buying the same items, except that it's all in one weekend, then there's probably very little increase, if any."

Still, it would be wrong to suggest that no one has any use for the sales-tax holiday. John Mehner, executive director and CEO of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce, said 7 percent is a lot for some people, especially the working poor.

"For some people, it may not amount to much," he said. "But for others, coming up with $100 for school supplies is a big deal. Saving $7, well, that's dinner."

And Rhonda Young, who has a son going off to college, is anxiously awaiting the sales-tax holiday. She plans to buy her son, Jordan, a laptop, which she expects to cost a couple thousand dollars.

"So it's really important to us this year," said Young, who teaches at Cape Christian School. "We're going to blow it out in one day. It will be a huge chunk of money, and every little bit helps."

Still, there are many who aren't buying the hype.

Mary Obergoenner of Cape Girardeau waited for the sales-tax holiday the first year it was instituted. When she waited that long to get her items, stores were out of much of them, she said, including a laptop computer that had to be ordered.

"It was so crowded, and I didn't feel like the service was as good," she said. "So I wouldn't do that again. I'll just buy it when I'm ready."

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