Tax-free window closes on a potentially quieter year

Customers come and go from Bluffton’s Old Navy Outlet during South Carolina’s 17th annual sales tax holiday weekend.
Customers come and go from Bluffton’s Old Navy Outlet during South Carolina’s 17th annual sales tax holiday weekend. jkarr@islandpacket.com

The Rodriguez girls were on a mission this weekend.

Dariana Rodriguez said she had been back and forth from her Beaufort home to the Tanger Outlets in Bluffton multiple times over the sales tax holiday weekend. She and her 6-year-old daughter Zaraih were shopping for just about everything to get ready for school: pajamas, undershirts, uniform clothes, boots, sneakers and more.

Rodriguez said she had saved up from the last couple of paychecks so that she could make the most of the weekend and get everything her family needed at once.

Local and visiting shoppers alike took advantage of the sales tax exemptions this weekend. Shoppers could purchase clothes, school supplies, computers and back-to-school-related items without sales tax Friday through Sunday, on top of the sales many stores threw in to help draw a crowd.

Kadeidra Devore from Yemassee was looking for some new clothes for a 2-year-old boy on Sunday. She said she spent Saturday shopping in Charleston, finding some good sales on polos for the little guy.

Devore was planning to take full advantage of the sales tax holiday, but some folks didn’t know it was happening.

The Iskandar family was strolling through Tanger Outlets 1, unaware that this was a tax-free weekend on some items. Antione and Nelly Iskandar and their three children were just out for some Sunday afternoon shopping down the street from their Bluffton home. Had she known it was the big weekend, Nelly said she would have been all over it. As she put it, “Nobody doesn’t like a sale!”

Store managers at Tanger Outlets 2 in Bluffton said the tax-free weekend crowd was steady and brought in more traffic than a normal weekend might have. But there wasn’t as much traffic, perhaps, as was anticipated.

White House Black Market assistant store manager Maggie Creeden said their number of visitors for each day of the holiday weekend was up from normal by approximately a couple hundred every day. She said sales were definitely good and had been steady but “weren’t overwhelming,” and she thought there would have been more.

The extended store hours didn’t seem to bring in many shoppers, either, whether due to lack of interest or insufficient advertising, she said.

Charles Jenkins, store manager for Fossil, said the shopping center as a whole seemed to see a decent amount of traffic but not as much as last year. He said the locals’ choice of going out to the outlet mall in Pooler might have spread the traffic around.

The store’s assistant store manager Bobby Hayes said he also thought confusion over what was or wasn’t exempt might have been a factor.

“You can buy a garter belt, but you can’t buy a wallet,” he said of the exemptions as he scrolled through the list of products included in the law. “Some of them make no sense.”

Bags, for instance, were included in the exemptions this year though they were excluded last year, Jenkins said. If shoppers didn’t check on how rules have changed, they may have missed out on a few things.

Joan McDonough: 843-706-8125, @IPBG_Joan