Summer thunderstorms did not deter shoppers, including Gov. Rick Scott, from hitting the stores in South Florida early Friday morning to take advantage of the start of Florida’s sales tax holiday weekend.
The tax holiday lasts through midnight Sunday. Tax exempt items include clothes, footwear and accessories that cost $75 or less per each item. School supplies that sell for $15 or less also are exempt.
Scott did some back-to-schoolshopping at Staples on Commercial Boulevard in Lauderhill on Friday morning. Scott, along with several teenage volunteers from the Tamarac-based nonprofit, HandsOn Broward, bought supplies and stuffed backpacks for children in need in Broward County.
Scott paid for the supplies personally.
“There are families still struggling out there, and I encourage them to take advantage of the tax free weekend,” Scott said.
After buying the supplies, Scott went to the Children’s Services Councilof Broward County to help stuff the backpacks. Lauderhill was the only visit Scott will make for the tax holiday weekend.
Back-to-school spending has become the second largest consumer spending event of the year behind the winter holidays, according to the National Retail Federation. Spending on back to school and college supplies is expected to reach $83.8 billion this year, said the NRF.
Florida’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research says the holiday will cost Florida $25.9 million this year on the supplies sold over the weekend. But what is lost on school supplies is made up for on other sales since more people are out shopping, said Rick McAllister, the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.
“About one-third of everything sold at retail this weekend will be tax-free,” McAllister said. “We expect retailers to see an average increase of about 37 percent in store traffic this weekend because of the sales tax holiday. Retail is Florida’s second largest industry, so that’s good for our economy as a whole, because it means more work hours and higher payrolls.”
Retailers are boosting their staff by 25 percent now through Sunday for the crowds expected for tax free deals, according to the FRF.
Busy shoppers, many with their young students in tow, wheeled through the aisles of the Back to School section of Target off Federal Highway in the Coral Ridge Mall on Friday morning.
Anastasia Zambrano from Fort Lauderdale quickly checked items on the school supply lists for her three children. Her fourth child, 11-month-old Mia, isn’t old enough to go to school yet.
“We’re reusing some items from last year,” Zambrano said.
About 84.8 percent of consumers with children said the economy impacts the way they spend, according to the NRF.
Shelley Maxwell, from Lauderdale Lakes, said she hopes to wrap up all the school shopping for her seventh-grader at New River Middle School and third-grader at Park Lakes Elementary School by Sunday.
“I checked the coupons at every store looking for the best prices,” Maxwell said. “Might as well take advantage of everything being tax free.”
Nancy Cahill, from Fort Lauderdale, debated with her daughter, who is going into eighth grade, about the color shades of highlighters.
“We’re at Target because she’s a teenager and thinks Target’s supplies are more cute,” Cahill said.