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Retailers banking on ‘Tax Free Weekend’

GREENFIELD — To some retailers, it’s a mystery why a little 6.25 percent “tax-free” discount would drive so many shoppers into stores on a summery August weekend, but still, it’s becoming a part of their landscape. Some would no sooner ignore “Tax Free Weekend” than they would “Black Friday” (the traditional Christmas shopping day).

“We’re just pretty much getting ready for Saturday and Sunday,” said Jesse Baldwin, a team leader for Greenfield’s Tractor Supply Co. on Newton St. “All throughout the week, we’ve seen people come in and ask us questions about things they might buy over the weekend,” he said. “Then Saturday, they’re here first thing in the morning and looking at (items) they’ve been saving for.”

At Home Depot, says Manager Kristyn Mostowski, “big-ticket items” do very well on tax-free days. Snowblowers, tractors, kitchen renovation purchases, carpeting, windows and doors are the types of things customers look for now.

“We’ve had people come in all week and do their window shopping,” she said. She said the delayed decision to approve the state-tax-free event may have left some customers unaware. “But people kind of knew it was coming sometime in August,” she said.

The waiving of the state tax is for purchases worth up to $2,500, so mattresses, furniture, appliances and computers are often enticements for the tax savings.

If you want that tax-free discount today, you can go to Wilson’s in Greenfield. Because Wilson’s is closed Sunday, the department store is reducing the purchase price of taxable items today by 6.25 percent. “Basically, we’re giving an additional discount (on Friday), because we want people to have two full days to shop here,” said store President Kevin O’Neil. Since clothing is already tax-free in Massachusetts, the big sellers are things like housewares, gifts and jewelry. He said the store already has some merchandise on sale in August, and the weekend gives customers a chance to save an extra 6 percent on top of the sale price.

Bicycle sales also do well on tax-free weekend, so some area bicycle shops stay open on tax-free Sunday.

“It’s definitely a big weekend,” said David Carr of Basically Bicycles in Turners Falls. “It’s actually a huge part of August sales. People know about it and they wait for it.

“It would be nice if the politicians wouldn’t play games with it every year, so we could plan for it,” he added.

Will Cluster of Bicycle World in Greenfield said it’s always a busy weekend, but he calls the tax-free promotion “a remarkable piece of psychology.”

“If we had a 6.25 percent sale, nobody would come,” he remarked.

For Kringle Candle in Bernardston, with so many items in the $15 to $25 range, it’s still a busy weekend, says Marketing Director Tim O’Brien. “My personal sense is that it doesn’t make much difference (in sales) directly, but it gets people out shopping in the middle of August.

“The weekend gets people out and they have a little extra money in their pockets,” he said.

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