Daily Light staff writer

It was a busy weekend for area businesses and shoppers alike as the state’s ninth annual sales tax holiday gave Texans a break from paying state and local taxes in preparation for the new school year.

The Texas Legislature established the tax-free shopping weekend in 1999 as a back-to-school-inspired trend that is now implemented in 14 states and Washington, D.C. The tax-free shopping weekend concluded Sunday.

Local department stores like JCPenney, Bealls and Hibbett Sports experienced a rush from shoppers as they lined up at the cash registers with clothes, shoes and other items.

“We’ve had a pretty large turn out today and it’s been great,” said JCPenney supervisor Jim O’Daniel on Saturday. “We’ve seen a steady flow of customers all day for two reasons: It’s tax-free weekend and because of our store’s close out sale. Today has been very good and we expect to have other good days until the store officially closes.”

JPPenney is in the process of moving to a larger store on North Highway 77, with its grand opening set for later this fall.

Phyllis Rupe of Ovilla agreed with O’Daniel’s statement.

“JCPenney has a pretty good bargain on their items and because of the store’s closing, they have very much to sell,” Rupe said. “I’m not taking advantage of the sales tax holiday because I did most of my school shopping earlier to beat the crowds, but I was able to buy some women’s clothing today.”

O’Daniel wasn’t the only customer going from aisle to aisle to see what could be purchased without having to pay sales tax.

“This is the first stop we’ve made today and it’s much better than I thought it would be,” Karen Milner said, saying she expected the rush to be a little crazier in the store.

“I’m pretty much buying school clothes like jeans, shirts and shoes for my niece so that she can meet the district’s dress code criteria,” she said. “This sales tax holiday is a great way to save money.”

“I’m taking full advantage of this sales tax holiday, mainly to buy school clothes,” Carlos Torres said. “I think this is a very good thing because it helps to save money, but I also think it should be done twice a year—around Christmas time and school time.”

“I’m enjoying this sales tax-free weekend because it’s going to help me save money on buying school clothes,” Travis Upchurch said.

From an employee’s standpoint, the event could only mean one thing — staying busy.

“We’ve had a wide range of people come in and out since I’ve been here today,” JCPenney employee Sara King said. “Most people have purchased school uniforms for their kids and some have purchased adult clothing and shoes.

“It’s been a rush since I made it to work at 5 o’clock,” she said.

Bealls also was busy, according to store manager Stuart Stephenson.

“Because the sales tax holiday was pushed back two weeks, this made us miss the first part of our back-to-school business, but it’s still a good thing for parents to save money,” Stephenson said. “We’ve seen a steady flow of customers in and out all day and I believe the bulk of our sales came from back-to-school shopping and shoes because we have a huge shoe department with good sales. Our juniors, children and young men’s department have been booming likewise.”

“I believe we’ll see more customers (Sunday), being that it will be the final day of the tax-free weekend,” said Bealls employee Doris Ladd. “Procrastinators usually show up on the last day to do their last-minute shopping.”

Hibbett Sports also saw a number of customers.

“This is a really good thing for Hibbett Sports because business will double and triple this weekend,” assistant manager Mitchell Blake said. “Today, we’ve sold mainly shoes and I think it’ll pretty much be the same (Sunday).”

“We’ve sold more shoes today than the average day,” said Hibbett Sports employee Joe Morales. “We’ve seen a steady flow of customers continuing throughout the day so someone has been in the store all day.”

According to the www.window.state.tx.us Web site, the law exempts most clothing and footwear priced under $100 from sales and use taxes, which could save shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend. The new exemption during the sales tax holiday includes backpacks with wheels, provided they can also be worn on the back like a traditional backpack. Ten or fewer backpacks can be purchased tax-free at one time without providing an exemption certificate to the seller.

Items to be tax-free included baby clothes, backpacks for use by elementary and secondary students, belts with attached buckles, coats and wraps, dresses, gloves (generally), gym suits and uniforms, hooded shirts and hooded sweatshirts, underclothes, shoes (sandals, slippers, sneakers, tennis, walking), shorts, socks, neckwear and ties, jogging apparel, suits, slacks and other apparel.

Sales tax holiday for clothes and shoes will now occur on the third Friday, Saturday and Sunday of August.

E-mail Chicarra at chicarra.dense@waxahachiedailylight.com