No rush on tax holiday
6 percent reprieve ends today

LAWRENCEVILLE - Marc Williams vividly remembers his store's initial experience with the sales tax holiday in 2002.

"The first year people were coming out like crazy," said Williams, store manager of the Dockers Outlet at Discover Mills in Lawrenceville. "People were lining up at the door before we opened."

On Saturday morning, there were no such lines outside his store.

Instead, Williams was quietly looking over sales numbers from the first two days of this year's tax-free shopping. The numbers, he said, were up from last year, but he couldn't really compare to what they were six years ago in terms of day-by-day volume.

Williams said he thinks the lack of crowds are due in large part to the lengthening of the tax-free period.

When Georgia legislators first attempted a sales tax holiday in 2002, they opted for a pair of two-day periods - one in March and another in August. In 2003, the tax-free period became four days all together right before students and teachers returned to school. It's been the same ever since.

"I think when they spread it out to four days it really spread out the traffic," Williams said.

That could be one explanation for diminished crowds. Vito Augusta, who traveled from Alpharetta to do some shopping at Discover Mills, offered another.

"I don't think it's a big deal unless people are buying big items," Augusta said. "If you're buying a computer or something, that's where you're saving some money."

Six percent savings on a $1,500 computer, the largest single item purchase allowed free of tax, would result in $90 savings.

Williams said his store has now had to resort to clearance sales on top of the tax-free savings to really attract customers. In 2002, everything could be normal price and it would still fly off the racks, he said.

Mark and Niki Redstrom said they were surprised by the ease of their shopping experience Saturday morning, but the couple thinks some of that has to do with businesses being more prepared than they were in the early years of the sales tax holiday.

"I think back then people in the stores didn't have a good handle on what it would be like," Niki Redstrom said. "Now they have more employees and they have a better handle on things."

But there was no denying a lack of foot traffic early in the day, something that surprised some shoppers.

"There's nobody here," Augusta said. "I thought it was going to be a mob scene."

Juliet Yang, a manager at the Charlotte Russe store in Discover Mills, seemed surprised as well and expressed high hopes about the mob showing up in the afternoon.

"Honestly, it's felt like a normal day so far," Yang said.