Shoppers ready for tax-free weekend
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Thursday, August 02, 2012
8/02/12 at 7:10 AM
The back-to-school shopping frenzy will peak Friday through Sunday in Oklahoma with the state's sixth straight tax-free weekend, and mall retailers are hoping the heat wave pushes people into their air-conditioned spaces.
While that may happen, it could come at the expense of outdoor shopping centers, where the searing temperatures tend to discourage shoppers from walking around.
"I think the heat is really helping the malls," said Ron Kise, manager of the J.C. Penney Co. department store at Tulsa Promenade.
Many retailers say the weeks leading up to the beginning of school are the second most important of the year, rivaling only Christmas.
For six straight years, Oklahoma has offered a sales tax discount on most back-to-school clothes and shoes, hoping to help parents stretch their cash and also compete with a growing number of states that offer similar promotions.
Nationwide, 17 states offer tax-free shopping weekends, including two new states this year. Texas was the first to do it in 1999.
Oklahoma's tax-free weekend, Friday through Sunday, coincides with most tax holidays nationwide, including neighboring Missouri and Arkansas. Texas' sales tax holiday falls two weeks later.
For Tulsa shoppers, the sales-tax discount is 8.5 percent, but many retailers pile on more discounts to compete with other stores.
Kise said uniforms are dominating 2012 back-to-school shopping trends as Tulsa Public Schools is requiring a stricter dress code at all schools for the second year in a row.
"Customers have been coming in for weeks stocking up on uniforms," he said.
With the cool breezes of fall too far away to fathom, many consumers are still buying summer favorites such as shorts and tank tops, store managers and owners say.
Kise said retailers have engaged in more on-demand ordering to make sure they aren't stocking fall merchandise too early. That means J.C. Penney and other stores will get another wave of customers in October and early November stocking up on sweaters, coats and other apparel for colder weather.
Hartly New Resale, a shop in Jenks, has been selling back-to-school items since the end of June, said Philip Meeker, whose wife and daughter own the store. Still, this week will probably be among the busiest of the year, Meeker said.
"I would say Tuesday through Sunday of this week is probably half of our month," he said.
But he, too, said shorts and T-shirts will sell well as long as the heat remains.
Consumers are expected to increase back-to-school spending this year. The average family with children will probably spend about $688 on clothes and school supplies, according the National Retail Federation. Overall, American shoppers are expected to spend about $30.8 billion on back-to-school purchases.
But even in Oklahoma with its relatively strong energy-rich economy, Meeker said customers are still very conscious of their spending, having retained shopping habits from the recession.
"When you're in this kind of an economy you don't go and buy frivolously," he said. "You go and buy what your children need."
Even though Friday through Sunday will register as one of the state's biggest shopping weekends this year, not all retailers benefit from the sales tax discount.
Utica Square children's apparel shop Lolly Garden always gets a big increase in sales from back-to-school shopping, but not so much this weekend, said store manager Amanda Graddy.
"It's not as huge for me as the mall stores," she said. "Back to school is big for us, but we will probably get busier closer to the actual start of school."
For parents who aren't shopping for uniforms, she said colored denim and "jeggings" are big sellers.
However, this year has been extremely slow for Lolly Garden, and Graddy said the heat is probably to blame.
"People really don't want to come out and walk from store to store when its more than 100 degrees outside," she said. "My Saturdays are usually really busy, but not this year."
Midwest Sporting Goods' two Tulsa locations are usually extremely busy as the start of school approaches, but the shoe and equipment retailer gets skipped over for the sales-tax holiday because many athletic items and sports-specific shoes are exempt, said Zac Lassister, vice president of retail sales.
"We've got some backpacks, which are great for back to school, and some clothes and shoes, but not much that we have qualifies," he said.
Shoppers will save the 8.5 percent in sales tax that is applied to certain clothing purchases in Tulsa.
What is tax-exempt:
What is not tax-exempt:
- Clothing and shoes costing less than $100 individually
- Aprons for household and shop use
- Bathing suits, coverups and rubber pants
- Belts and suspenders
- Boots, shoes, sandals, sneakers, slippers, overshoes, footlets and insoles
- Coats, jackets, lab coats and rainwear
- Diapers for children and adults, baby receiving blankets
- Gloves, scarves, earmuffs, hats and caps
- Formal wear and neckties
- Socks, stockings, hosiery, garters, garter belts and pantyhose
- Underwear, girdles and athletic supporters
- Uniforms (athletic and nonathletic)
- Wedding apparel
Source: Oklahoma Tax Commission
- Clothes and shoes costing more than $100 individually
- Most accessories
- Jewelry, wallets and watches
- Handbags, luggage and umbrellas
- Clothing or shoes primarily designed for an athletic activity
- Rental clothing or footwear
Woodland Hills Mall: Saturday only, customers who spend $250 at the mall will get a $25 prepaid Visa Card. Also, a kids fashion show is planned in front of Sears from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sam's Club: Non-members of the warehouse club can shop without a membership Friday through Sunday.
Area retailers with extended hours during the tax-free holiday:
Woodland Hills Mall: 71st Street and Memorial Drive; Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Tulsa Promenade: 41st Street and Yale Avenue; several department stores and retailers have extended hours beginning at 7 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. Sunday, including Foot Action, Gap, Hot Topic, Pro Image and Underground Station. Other stores extending hours include Journeys, Romancing the Stone and Rue 21
Dillard's: Tulsa Promenade - Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Woodland Hills - Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
J.C. Penney: Tulsa Promenade - Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Woodland Hills - Friday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Macy's: Tulsa Promenade and Woodland Hills - Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Kohl's: Friday 8 a.m. to midnight, Saturday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Original Print Headline: Shopping set to heat up
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380
Wyatt Graves (left), 15, and his brother Warren Graves, 12, both of Claremore, walk through Woodland Hills Mall on Wednesday. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Andy Copeland of Sand Springs shops Wednesday at Hartly New Resale, 385 E. Main St. in Jenks. The resale shop sells a variety of name-brand clothes at competitive prices. KT KING/Tulsa World
Shoppers walk through Woodland Hills Mall on Wednesday. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World