The Grissom family spent their Friday morning at the Victoria Mall.

By 11 a.m., Ellie Grissom, 7, and Aiden, 11, each had new shoes and a few new pieces of clothing for the start of the school year. The Point Comfort family was one of many out shopping Friday in advance of the new school year and to take advantage of Texas’ annual sales tax holiday.

The family planned to be out shopping this weekend regardless of the tax-free weekend, their mother Jacquie Grissom said, but the tax-free bonus made the spending easier and the shopping more fun.

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“Tax-free sure isn’t bad!” she said.

Tax-free holidays have been an annual pre-fall tradition since 1999, with Texas being the first of the now 16 states and Puerto Rico that have sales tax holidays.

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

Local stores were expecting this tax-free weekend to be busier than ever, as this year, the holiday falls on the same weekend as the weekend before school starts for most Crossroads-area schools.

Shoppers slowly trickled into the Victoria Mall when it opened Friday morning, the start of the three-day holiday. Within the first hour, the parking lot was filling up.

The Grissom family made their first purchases at Shoe Dept. Encore, where Aiden and Ellie both got new shoes. Their father Joshua Grissom said that Aiden found the shoes he wanted right away and didn’t even need to look for anything else.

“They both know what they like,” he said.

After the family had no luck looking for back-to-school clothes in The Children’s Place and rue21, they found what they needed in T.J. Maxx.

As their father sorted through the boys’ shirts, Aiden picked out what he liked while having fun going under the racks of clothes from one aisle to another.

“Shopping is always fun, because who doesn’t like shopping – though it clearly can be a little crazy with the kids,” Joshua Grissom laughed.

At the end of the shopping trip, Ellie’s picks included a rainbow cat-ear headband, a rainbow rain jacket and a first-day-of-school blue romper. Aiden left with a few new shirts, including one that changes color in the sun.

Aside from the mall, l ocally-owned stores saw great customer turnout on the first day, too. Kelly High, owner of High-Brehm Hats and Western Wear, said late Friday morning that the store had been busy since it opened.

“People are really taking advantage of all of our great deals,” he said. He said some customers were coming in and stocking up on blue jeans, and others were heading for the store’s $99.99 boots, gladly taking advantage of the tax-free perk. Items sold for $100 or more do not qualify for the tax-free weekend.

High said he was expecting the store to get busier as the weekend went on. The comptroller’s office estimates that shoppers will save an estimated $102.2 million in state and local sales taxes during the sales tax holiday.

Finishing their shopping didn’t mark the end of activities for the day for the Grissom family on Friday.

“We’re going to go out to eat with all the money we saved!” Jacquie Grissom said.

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, mtheophil@vicad.com or on Twitter

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