Brittany Rademacher, along with her kids, Ali, Mason and Camden, shop for back to school supplies at the Walmart in West Chester, Wednesday, July 26, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Before Ohio’s sales tax holiday, retailers push back-to-school sales

It’s still only July, but retailers have been promoting their back-to-school sales for weeks now and the big push starts next weekend when Ohio’s sales tax holiday begins for the third year.

Ohio’s sales tax holiday, which begins Friday and ends at midnight Sunday, offers sales tax exemptions on certain items for back-to school shoppers. The deal includes clothing priced up to $75 and school supplies and instruction materials priced under $20.

The weekend shopping spree is expected to save shoppers more than $3 million in sales taxes. That allows back-to-school shoppers, who are expected to spend a record $84 billion in the U.S. this year, to spend more money.

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“Families are now in a state of mind where they feel a lot more confident about the economy,” said Matthew Shay, National Retail Federation president and CEO.” With stronger employment levels and a continued increase in wages, consumers are spending more and we are optimistic that they will continue to do so throughout the rest of the year.”

The first public schools in this region return to school Aug. 9.

Ohio’s initial sales tax holiday in August 2015 boosted sales tax revenues by $4.7 million and saved shoppers $3.3 million on sales tax, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati. Local business officials expect to see that revenue increase again this weekend.

“I’m excited to have supported the sales tax holiday from its inception,” said state Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg. “This sales tax holiday will help hard working, middle class families afford school supplies and clothes as their children go back to school. This is an important tax cut to give some relief to these parents and families and I hope this sales tax holiday will become permanent very soon.”

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The state expects to lose $14.7 million in tax revenue from the sales tax holiday, according to analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission.

Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average $687.72 each, for a total of $29.5 billion, an 8 percent increase from last year’s $27.3 billion nationwide. Total spending is the second-highest in the history of the survey following a peak of $30.3 billion in 2012.

The economic benefit of the holiday is really neutral for the state — it really ultimately benefits consumers, said Gordon Gough, president of the Ohio Retail Merchants Council. The sales tax holiday caters to both online and brick-and-mortar stores.

Shoppers at area Walmart stores started coming in for back-to-school items right after the Fourth of July. This weekend will be the busiest for shoppers coming in for grade school and high school students, said Ashley Phillips, store manager at the Walmart in Miami Twp.

“It’s really all hands on deck,” she said.

What people are buying for school has also changed in recent years. As students enter into high school and college, they are often required or encouraged to buy more electronics like calculators, specific types of laptops and other accessories.

Among electronics shoppers, 45 percent said they would buy a laptop computer while more than a third plan to purchase a tablet or a calculator. One in four consumers plan to purchase electronic accessories such as a mouse, flash drive or charger.

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“Schools are changing their classroom experience to include more technology including laptops and tablets,” said Pam Goodfellow, an analyst for Prosper Principal. “That is why many parents, specifically Millennials, are spending more during back-to-school season and taking advantage of retailers’ best deals to stretch their budgets.”

For all ages, retailers are posting local schools’ supplies list on their websites — allowing them to either come into the store and pick out what they need or even order their items online. Some customers won’t even leave the house for their shopping this year.

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Meijer customers with home delivery memberships can shop online for the most frequently-shopped back–to-school items and have everything delivered store-to-door by Shipt shoppers as soon as one hour after the order is placed, or up to one day in advance.

“Each year, we see parents and students shopping earlier and earlier, and they continue right up until the week school starts,” said Michael McKenzie, a”Back-to-School” buyer for Meijer.

A major push of the sales tax holiday is to lure consumers back into local stores, said Holly Allen, director of marketing and communications for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. The weekend gets people excited to visit local establishments, browse for the items they want and land some good deals.

“I would say the most important benefit is it gets people excited about shopping and money, going out into local stores and spending money,” she said. “It brings back the excitement of going to those physical stores. Some of that has been lost in recent years. It creates kind of an event for this holiday.”

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