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Stores, shoppers take advantage of tax-free weekend

ALLISON MILES

By ALLISON MILES
Aug. 19, 2011 at 3:19 a.m.


Amanda Wendel stood outside a dressing room at High Brehm Hats and Western Wear, her brow furrowed as she examined the dark blue jeans her son, Aaron, sported.

"Do you think they're too long?" she asked, tilting her head to the side. "Go ask Daddy what he thinks."

The family hit stores Friday to take advantage of the 13th annual tax-free weekend. The event is a chance for consumers in the Lone Star State to scoop up clothes and school supplies, foregoing the 8 percent sales tax.

Statewide, shoppers will save an estimated $62.1 million in state and local taxes throughout the weekend, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said in a news release.

Business was steady at High Brehm Friday, but customer traffic began picking up earlier in the week, with people hoping to avoid weekend rushes, owner Kelly High said.

While the weekend means extra work - it brings in more business than Black Friday - High said the real stress comes in the weeks leading up to the tax-free event. That's when he schedules staffers and makes sure merchandise is ready to go.

"It's like a wedding," he said from behind the front counter. "The day gets here and, if you haven't done what you need to do, it's too late. Just sit back and enjoy it."

The staff at Rue 21, inside the Victoria Mall, sported "Tax-Free Days" T-shirts as they greeted customers and folded clothes Friday.

Business was steady, but not overwhelming, said Vanessa Diaz, an assistant manager.

Manager Monica Maloney agreed, noting that denim was the day's biggest seller.

Further down the mall, the staff at Maurices said business wasn't quite as busy as they had expected.

The clothing store doesn't offer the polos and other shirts that apply to Victoria school district dress codes, assistant manager Silina Navarro said, adding the mall's store selection might also account for a slower Friday.

"Hopefully things will pick up Saturday and even Sunday morning," she said, explaining the store took extra care to make sure its displays were more appealing for the weekend. "We'll see."

Clothing isn't all that's tax-free, though, and the staff at H-E-B Plus kept busy in the days leading up to the weekend, posting flyers and signs reminding shoppers of school supply deals, said Adrian Chavana, the store's general merchandise manager.

"A lot of people don't think that they can get these deals at a grocery store, as well," he said. "That's why it's real key for us to advertise it big time."

The store also grouped its school supplies together, Chavana said, for added customer ease.

Crystal Guerrero gathered her four children and her husband for a full day of shopping, hitting Kohl's, Bealls, Rue 21 and more. She said she hoped to get all her shopping done in one fell swoop.

"We usually don't shop tax-free weekend, but my daughter was in the hospital, so we had to wait," she said, resting her feet for a moment. "But the savings help. We're on a budget."

As for the Wendels, they also planned to make other stops on Friday.

The foursome - Amanda, her husband, Karl, along with their sons Aaron and Nathan - also planned to visit Academy and H-E-B. The grocery store was a major draw, since the family got tax-free savings, along with Mom's employee discount.

"Every little bit helps," she said, explaining the family planned to shell out $300 or $400 total. "We save where we can."

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