Despite timing, big turnout for tax-free shopping

BUFORD — Asked Saturday what Georgia’s tax-free holiday meant for business, Keith Booker had a question of his own.

“Have you been upstairs?” the store leader for JCPenney’s Mall of Georgia location asked with a grin.

Upstairs — the home of clothing, shoes and accessories — was indeed a back-to-school madhouse Saturday afternoon, as parents braved the crowds to take advantage of the final of two days without a state sales tax.

Booker said about 20 staff members were added for the back-to-school season that includes the tax holiday, and the store also extended hours, added registers and used handheld checkout devices over the weekend.

“Business is phenomenal,” he said.

Lawrenceville resident Stacey Davis was buying clothes Saturday for her 12-year-old son while grandma helped her 7-year-old daughter. She said she planned well in advance once she heard the dates for the tax-free “weekend,” held Friday and Saturday.

“He started school on Wednesday, so I kind of wish we had it before then,” Davis said. “We have most of the school supplies but I waited on the clothes. Every little bit helps.

Gwinnett County schools did indeed start Wednesday, along with the majority of those in metro Atlanta. Booker, who sits on the board of the Georgia Retail Association, said that complaint was a common one and one that the organization would try and address in the future.

This year is the final one on a current agreement and the status of the tax break moving forward is unclear.

“If we had to do one thing better, we’d probably have it shifted a little earlier to tie in with Gwinnett County (schools),” Booker said.

That said, it didn’t seem to be hurting business much, at least at JCPenney.

“It’s one of our largest volume weekends of the year,” Booker said.