Tax-free holiday this Saturday (8/20/09)

Williston businesses gearing up for busy shopping day

Aug. 20, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Williston retailers and businesses are preparing for an onslaught of shoppers from Vermont and beyond this weekend. That’s because the state’s sales tax holiday will take place this Saturday, Aug. 22.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Williston businesses, such as North Country Tile on Marshall Avenue, are gearing up for this Saturday’s tax-free day.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Flooring America is one of several stores that are offering a layaway plan prior to the tax free holiday.

For one day only, the state is suspending its 6 percent sales tax. Patrons of Williston businesses will have the added benefit of not having to pay the town’s extra 1 percent local option sales tax. The tax-free benefit only applies to items under $2,000.

Every business, from big box stores to locally-owned shops, is hoping this Saturday will turn into one of the biggest shopping days of the year. And many are holding extra sales with extended business hours to entice customers to spend even more.

“I expect this weekend to be extremely busy,” said Doug Whitaker, general manager of the SuperStore, which sells appliances, electronics and furniture.

Tasha Wallis, executive director of the Vermont Retailers Association, said the tax-free Saturday will be a boon to all Vermont businesses, especially those that sell a lot of back-to-school supplies and electronics.

“I think we’ll see the most activity in those stores,” Wallis said.

Many shops have already seen steady activity in the two weeks leading up to this Saturday. Since Vermont is allowing layaway programs this year for shoppers, customers have been pre-shopping in order to find the best deals and available products.

Laurie LeDuke, manager of Vermont Furniture Galleries, said the layaway program has already been a success. Each day gets busier and busier, she said.

“We’re trying to convenience (customers) by having them come in earlier,” LeDuke said, adding the store’s free delivery bonus has also brought in people.

With a layaway plan, customers can pick out what they want ahead of time while being charged on Saturday and receiving the tax-free savings.

“It’s great because a lot of people don’t want to waste a Saturday in a store,” said Dianne Daniels, sales representative for Flooring America.

Stores are also rolling out extra sales even as Vermont suspends its sales tax for a day. Flooring America is matching Vermont and Williston’s sale tax by taking an extra 7 percent off every purchase, which includes items already discounted. The SuperStore is offering a similar deal.

At North Country Tile, the store will be holding a warehouse sale on a day it’s normally closed. Sales representative Jessica Kaiser said many overstock and discontinued items will be on sale, along with items in its showroom.

“This will be a good thing for people to take advantage of,” said Kaiser.

Customers at Guy’s Farm & Yard will be treated to an extra 10 percent off nearly the entire store, according to manager Giles Jackson. He hopes this Saturday’s sales tax holiday will be as successful as last year’s tax-free weekend.

“Both days last year our sales were double,” Jackson said.

Last year, the sales tax weekend took place on July 12 and 13. The state decided to have two tax-free Saturdays instead; one taking place this weekend and the next occurring on March 6, 2010.

“It’s to provide more opportunities for retailers and consumers to benefit,” said Wallis, adding that March is typically a slow time of year for businesses.

LeDuke from the Vermont Furniture Galleries said creating two tax-free Saturdays was a good thing since “one day is not enough.”

“We probably did three weekends worth of business in one weekend last year,” LeDuke said.

“We’re hoping we can do the same numbers that we did last year,” said Whitaker from the SuperStore.

Wallis said this Saturday’s tax holiday also comes at a time when sales have been down for some retailers in the economic recession. Any boost helps, she added.

“It’ll be nice to have a real positive, upbeat event for retailers,” Wallis said.

Jackson at Guy’s Farm & Yard said he’s hoping for a large boost in sales in what has been a slower-than-normal year.

“(This year) hasn’t been like other years, but we’re doing OK,” Jackson said.