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5 tips to beat the back-to-school crowd during Ohio tax-free weekend

Tax-free weekend is expected to draw larger-than-average crowds as parents and teachers look to save some cash on school supplies, but local store managers have tips for shopping the holiday with ease.

The three-day holiday stretching from Friday to Sunday offers consumers a break from sales and use taxes on clothing less than $75 each and school supplies and instructional material costing less than $20 per item.

With parents, teachers, children and others taking advantage of the weekend, area store managers at major back-to-school players have several tips for beating the crowd.

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1. Shop early

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Whether it’s early in the weekend, early in the day, or both, customers are going to have the best luck finding everything they need in the quickest way by hitting the stores early.

“I’ve been in retail for 14 years now, and early in the morning on tax-free weekend that Friday is the best time to come in because you still get that selection but you don’t get the crowd,” said Raheem Muhammad-Terrell, an executive team leader at the Target store on North Fairfield Road in Beavercreek.

The absolute best time, according to several store managers, is early in the day Friday. It’s the first day of the tax-free holiday so the stock is full, but many parents are still working.

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“Hit the first day running,” said Mike Burkhart, the store director of the Meijer in Moraine. “Get what you need because the hot items will go quick. It’s hard to stay in stock on them.”

For those who can’t shop Friday, early in the day Saturday and Sunday are the second best. Meijer, Target and Walmart will stock the shelves the night before the sales begin and restock each night during third shift.

“Starting early in the morning is when we’re going to have the widest assortment and then we’re going to restock it every single night,” said Ashley Phillips the store manager at the Walmart located at 8800 Kingsridge Drive in Dayton. “It’s really hard in a lot of the stores during the day to keep stocking because of the amount of demand that’s going to be there that weekend.”

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2. Come prepared

While all three stores will have school lists, store managers recommend customers leave for their day of shopping with a plan.

“We do have some school lists, but you do want to make sure you call the school and get the right, correct school list and make sure you get the correct items. It’ll save you a bunch of frustration,” Burkhart said.

Some children want very specific items and assortments, and Phillips recommended parents know what their children want when they go to the store.

Muhammad-Terrell and Burkhart also recommended that customers ask for help if they don’t find something they need.

“We don’t want them to leave the store and say ‘oh my goodness. We forgot the highlighters’ or ‘we forgot the glue,’” Muhammad-Terrell said.

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3. Take advantage of technology

Just as Target, Meijer and Walmart are racing to bring groceries to customers’ curbside cars or homes, they also have technology-based options for school supplies to help customers avoid not just the crowds, but entering the store altogether.

Walmart’s app this year will have school supply lists uploaded for parents to view. Then they can order online and pick up the same day via pickup towers or at the curb, as well as order for delivery.

Meijer and Target both offer curbside pickup and home delivery for school supplies as well.

“We have order pickup, which allows our guests to make their order online and pick up those items in as little as two hours. We also have Drive-up, to save even a little bit more time,” Muhammed-Terrell of Target said.

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4. Check other areas of the store

While each of the three stores have special seasonal sections stocked with school supplies for the tax-free holiday, those aren’t the only places customers will find the merchandise.

“Parents, they get crammed up in this front area,” Phillips said. “They want to just avoid the crowd…Go back to where the items are normally located and you can avoid the crowd a little bit.”

In addition to where the stationery and home items are normally located, Target, Meijer and Walmart also have some value deals and most highly purchased supplies lining the main aisles of the stores.

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5. Don’t forget the apparel

When shopping back-to-school merchandise, store managers said not to get so wrapped up in school supplies that customers forget the apparel.

Some of the biggest sales can be found on clothes, Phillips said. Since apparel is more expensive, shoppers will have more tax savings as well.

Many of the stores have school uniforms and logo gear. School uniforms are some of the first items to go, so getting to the store early in the weekend is extra-important, Burkhart said.

To save extra money, Burkhart said parents should only buy warm-weather apparel during the tax-free weekend and wait to buy fall clothes when they go on clearance.

“It’s going to be hot early on and then you can buy your fall lineup. Some customers come and look at all the product that’s here, but you can save a lot of money by just waiting a couple of weeks because they’re going to be wearing shorts and T-shirts for the first couple of months,” he said.

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