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Sales tax holiday in pandemic bucks back-to-school spending patterns

Sales tax holiday in pandemic bucks back-to-school spending patterns


Oklahoma’s annual sales-tax holiday typically means brisk sales for school uniform business owner Joyce Fuller.

But with many schools opting for remote learning amid COVID-19, she is unsure how full the fitting rooms will be this year.

“We will just see what the day brings,” Fuller said by phone Friday from her store in the Fontana Shopping Center.

The three-day, no-tax event began at 12:01 a.m. Friday and extends through midnight Sunday. During that span, sales of eligible clothing and shoes are exempt from sales tax for items priced less than $100.

Back-to-the-classroom buzz, which normally fuels the tax-savings event, has been numbed by the lingering coronavirus, which has prompted many large school districts, including Tulsa Public Schools, to begin the year with no in-person instruction.

“We are hoping that we are going to see a lot of our customers that are still using uniforms,” said Fuller, who co-owns her business with Chari Edwards. “Even some of the Tulsa Public Schools parents are still choosing to buy a couple of things that you feel like you are in school.

“The mind does a wonderful thing to us. If we think we’re at playtime with what we have on or how we’re dressed, then we are a little more relaxed. But if we are in our work sort of clothes, then we just behave a little differently.”

The sales-tax holiday typically saves Oklahomans more than $7 million, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

A July report by the National Retail Federation said the distance learning aspect of school this year may benefit some retailers.

Its survey said that because of the pandemic, consumers tentatively plan to spend a record amount to prepare students for school and college this year as they buy more laptops and computer accessories in anticipation that at least some classes will take place online.

Parents with children in elementary school through high school say they plan to spend an average $789.49 per family, topping the previous record of $696.70 they said they would spend last year, according to the survey. Spending is expected to total $33.9 billion, up from $26.2 billion last year and breaking the record of $30.3 billion set in 2012.

“By any measure, this is an unprecedented year with great uncertainty, including how students will get their education this fall whether they are in kindergarten or college,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “Most parents don’t know whether their children will be sitting in a classroom or in front of a computer in the dining room or a combination of the two. But they do know the value of an education and are navigating uncertainty and unknowns so that students are prepared.”

Frankie Catlett is manager of the Walmart Supercenter at 3900 E. Hillside Drive in Broken Arrow.

“I do expect to have a huge participation in online ordering, more so than we have experienced in the past five weeks,” he said.

Catlett also has witnessed nondiscounted business activity relating to preparing for remote learning.

“Not so much in Broken Arrow, but we’ve seen people in the outlying areas come in and buy supplies to get their homes set up for online learning, buying things like laptops and desks,” he said.

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