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Consumers, vendors expect to benefit from Ohio’s tax-free weekend

Consumers, retailers eagerly await next week's tax holiday

By Kalea Hall

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

By Kalea Hall


Pencils. Rulers. Pens.

Shoes. Jeans. Shirts.

They all add up.

But soon parents have a chance to save a few dollars or more when they go back-to-school shopping Aug. 7-9.

“Every penny counts, especially today,” said Kelli Rounds of Cortland, whose 6-year-old daughter, Claire, already has a love for shopping. “It’s hitting at the right time.”

Claire already picked out her “Frozen”-themed book bag and lunchbox, but she will need more supplies and clothes for her first day of first grade in the McDonald schools.

Senate Bill 243 enacted the one-time sales-tax holiday when clothing priced at $75 per item or less, school supplies priced at $20 per item or less, and school instructional material priced at $20 per item or less are all exempt from sales and use tax.

In the Mahoning Valley that means customers purchasing the items listed will save 7.25 percent in Mahoning and Columbiana counties and 6.75 percent in Trumbull County.

Not only parents will benefit, but so will the retailers out there from the largest to the smallest because consumers are expected to buy more items. The exemption does not cover computers and other electronics, sports equipment, clothing and hair accessories or higher-priced clothing and supplies.

“The economic impact is large,” said Gordon Gough, president and chief executive officer of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, which represents 6,500 members from large retailers to small, single stores. “We are very, very happy the legislation was passed.”

Gough expects to see residents from surrounding Midwestern states without a sales-tax holiday come to Ohio to shop for the weekend, which translates to a larger boost in the state’s economy.

“I think it is a gift from the state,” said Sharon Blumental, owner of The Supplyroom, an educational-materials supply store on Belmont Avenue in Liberty. “ I think people should appreciate it and definitely use it.”

Blumental has been in business for more than 30 years, serving parents and teachers looking to fill book bags and classrooms.

“The local school systems have been very supportive,” she said. “We have a lot of parents and grandparents that come in, too.”

Back-to-school season is her store’s holiday shopping time. She expects Aug. 7-9 to be a busy weekend for the store.

The sales-tax holiday is “a win-win for the customer and the vendor,” she said.

Staples on Youngstown-Warren Road in Niles already is set up as a back-to-school center. Book bags and an assortment of the back-to-school essentials are on display in the front of the store.

“I think we are going to be very busy,” said Billy Griffith, store manager of the Niles Staples.

Southern Park Mall on Market Street in Boardman will have a series of fashion shows during the tax holiday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 8.

Doors at Eastwood Mall on Youngstown-Warren Road are decked in happy-faced emojis announcing the tax holiday.

“You have to make sure the stores are prepared for that,” said Joe Bell, spokesman for the Cafaro Co., which owns Eastwood and several other retail centers throughout the country, including two others in Ohio. “We are educating our consumers as well. It is a great opportunity.”

The National Retail Federation estimates the average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $630.36 on electronics, apparel and other school necessities. That’s down from $669.28 last year. Total spending for K-12 and college is expected to be $68 billion for the second-largest shopping season of the year.

Erica Willoughby of Warren went shopping this week at Eastwood with two of her school-aged children. She also has another child in school and knows the back-to-school season can by costly for parents, especially those with multiple children in school.

“I try to make sure we do shop smart,” she do. “I do try to get them the best.”

Opponents of sales-tax holidays often focus on the resulting lost revenues, saying the reduced tax collections negatively affect state services.

A fiscal analysis by the state’s Legislative Service Commission projected a “loss of up to $13.5 million” from next month’s holiday.

But a study conducted by the University of Cincinnati Economics Center projected a 4.8 percent boost in sales with a sales-tax holiday. Average families, spending nearly $700 on school supplies, would save about $38, according to the study.

Proponents of the tax holiday hope this year’s Ohio event will lead to an overall sales boost, with consumers eating out, buying gasoline and making other purchases while they seek out school supplies.