Tax-free weekend kicks off with a whimper for some businesses

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Posted at 5:00 PM, Aug 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-07 19:47:43-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The state's annual sales tax holiday is underway, and like everything else these days, it's being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It's affecting what parents and students are buying, and how they're buying it.

Many parents said school supplies are tops on their back-to-school lists this year, not clothes. Based on crowds at local shopping centers Friday, you wouldn't have guessed it was the start of a traditionally busy shopping weekend.

For many, back-to-school season wouldn’t be complete without the annual sales tax holiday.

“This would be about the busiest weekend of the year for sure,” said Mark Segrest. “We would have between $12,000-$14,000 days today and tomorrow.”

The racks are full at Academic Outfitters, but Segrest’s store virtually was empty Friday. Segrest supplies uniforms for local private schools, which also are starting remotely.

“They’re having (classes) online, but they want them to wear the uniform,” said Segrest, who estimated sales Friday were down more than 90 percent from last year. “So they’re buying one or two shirts, as opposed to a full set of clothes.”

Aransas County ISD parent Sherry McDaniel is one of many buying less this season.

“We’re not really doing much back-to-school shopping,” she said. “I’m not sure they’ll end up going back, so it’s minimal.”

During tax-free weekend, parents can stock up on their kids' back-to-school needs, including clothes and shoes, without paying sales tax as long as the item is less than $100.

Because of the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, Corpus Christi/Nueces County Public Health Director Annette Rodriguez suggested parents shop online as much as possible. But some would rather do their shopping in person.

For the most part, they want to make sure they get the perfect fit.

“I’m going in the stores because I want to try stuff on, or at least take it home and be able to have it to return,” said Special Education teacher Marah Kirkland.

“Sizes are always different when you’re trying to shop online,” McDaniel agreed. “Then you have to return it, this is just easier.”

Despite the slow start to the tax-free weekend, some still expect crowds to come out.

“You have those ones who are going to stay home, but others, none of this has stopped them at all anyway,” said Kirkland.