Tax-free weekend is normally busy, said Josh Vega, store director at the Target on Zac Lentz Parkway, but not as busy as the weekend before school starts.

With most Victoria-area schools starting about Aug. 15, nearly a week earlier than last year, the two weekends are aligned, and Vega said his store will be busier than ever.

Texas’ annual sales tax holiday begins Friday and continues through Sunday at midnight. Shoppers will save $102.2 million in state and local sales taxes this year, the comptroller’s office estimates.

“The sales tax holiday is the perfect opportunity to save some money on supplies families need before the school bell rings,” Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar wrote in a statement. “As a father of three, I know how these expenses can add up.”

Families with children in elementary school through high school plan to spend an average of $696.70, up from $684.79 last year, according to an annual survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics.

J. Craig Shearman, a spokesperson for the National Retail Federation, said tax holidays largely benefit low-income families, for which 8.25% savings can make the difference between things like generic and name-brand jeans.

“Many are in a financial situation where $20 is going to make a difference,” Shearman said.

The holiday is timed around an ordinarily expensive time of the year, Shearman said, and families would need to buy the items anyway.

“The focus is helping consumers stretch their dollars,” Shearman said.

This back-to-school season, families plan to spend more money than ever, the survey found.

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Families with kids in kindergarten through 12th grade are expected to spend $696.70, with clothing and accessories topping their expenses, followed by electronics.

Those with college students can expect to spend an average of $976.78, with most of that amount going toward electronics.

While clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks are exempt from sales tax during the holiday weekend, most electronics are not. An item must be priced below $100 to be exempt.

To meet the under-$100 requirement, there will be additional sales for high-priced items at some stores, including High Brehm, where select cowboy boots will be discounted to $99.99.

Stores often have additional sales and promotions during tax-free weekend to promote extra sales while customers are in a spending state of mind, Shearman said.

At Target, Vega said he’s prepping for the weekend by focusing on digital sales like walk-up.

“That’s a huge sales driver for us,” Vega said.

Big-box stores like Target and Walmart have to compete with online retailers that do business in Texas, like Amazon, which also has products eligible for the sales tax exemption.

In-store, Vega is preparing by making sure he has enough staff on duty, a lesson he’s learned working at retail stores over 15 years’ worth of tax-free weekends.

This year, the trade war adds an extra reason to save. Thursday, the Trump administration announced plans to impose a 10% tariff on $300 billion worth of goods imported from China beginning Sept. 1.

“These additional tariffs will only threaten U.S. jobs and raise costs for American families on everyday goods,” said National Retail Federation officials in a Thursday statement.

A 25% tariff is already imposed on $250 billion in Chinese goods. Shearman said the previous tariffs didn’t affect most retail goods but that new tariffs could begin to affect everyday merchandise.

“Given the fact that consumer prices may be going up because of the trade war, this could temporarily help offset those higher costs,” Shearman said.

Tax-free holidays have been an annual pre-fall tradition since 1999.

Texas was the first of the now 16 states and Puerto Rico that have sales tax holidays. Victoria’s 8.25% tax rate consists of 6.25% Texas state sales tax, .5% Victoria County sales tax and 1.5% Victoria tax.

After this weekend, the Texas Comptroller’s office estimates, Texans will have saved $1.3 billion since the holiday began.

Morgan is the business reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at (361) 580-6328, or @mcohanlon.

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Morgan covers business for the Victoria Advocate. She was born and raised in Austin, Texas and received her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.

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