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Mark Johns, left, steadies a ladder for Electronic Express assistant manager Nathan Adams to re-secure the "tax free week" sign that blew loose from the original hooks at the Hixson retailer. "We've had this sign up all week," Adams said.
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Tax-free weekend

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Lavonda Oakley is shopping for clothes for her school-age child during this year's sales tax holiday weekend in Tennessee, and she's looking forward to saving some cash.

"I do need the tax-free weekend," she said outside Northgate Mall in Hixson. "I think it will help out tremendously."

Chattanooga shoppers can save nearly 10% on more than 150 different items during the three-day tax holiday that starts Friday and goes through Sunday.

Clothing and school supplies costing $100 or less per item and computers costing $1,500 or less are among the goods exempt from state and local taxes for the back-to-school season.

The tax-free holiday weekend begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 26 and ends Sunday, July 28 at 11:59 p.m.

Tennessee is one of 16 states to hold sales tax holidays. Georgia doesn't offer the exemption anymore. Alabama held its holiday last weekend.

In the Volunteer State, the sales tax holiday approved by the state Legislature is not only for students or even just Tennesseans. Anyone who shops in the state is eligible.

Robert Doherty, a manager at Electronic Express in Hixson, said that business got a head start by offering a tax-free week. It started last Sunday and continues through this weekend, he said.

"It increases business quite a bit. We've seen a lot of traffic and made a lot of sales," he said. Computers are the store's most popular item during the week, Doherty said.

Taylor Bostwick, marketing director for Hamilton Place and Northgate malls in Chattanooga, said the weekend is one of the centers' biggest shopping holidays along with Black Friday after Thanksgiving and the Christmas season.

"Those are some of the big heavy hitters," she said.

What is tax free?

› Clothing: $100 or less

› School and art supplies: $100 or less

› Computers: $1,500 or less

› See full list at Tennessee Department of Revenue: https://bit.ly/2xLfcv4

This weekend, Bostwick said, many people will look to fill out their childrens' wardrobes.

"Traditional clothing retailers probably will be pretty busy," she said, adding that electronic stores likely will see lots of shoppers and the extra foot traffic boosts the malls' eateries. "It's kind of a good jump-start to the back-to-school season."

Shoe Dept. Encore at Northgate Mall is extending its hours for the holiday.

Assistant Manager Allen Long said the weekend is "a very busy time."

He estimated lines could be as long as 50-60 people deep at a time waiting to buy such popular brands as Chaco, Nike and Adidas.

This weekend's sales tax holiday on clothes, school supplies, and computers will offer a much-needed lift to small businesses across the state, said Jim Brown, state director of NFIB, an association of small ventures.

"Back-to-school sales already put people in the mood to shop," Brown said. "The sales tax holiday makes it more of an event and helps people stretch a dollar."

According to NFIB, the sales tax holiday comes at a time when small-business optimism declined 1.7 points last month. While small business optimism remains high, the survey showed that sales expectations and profits declined in June as uncertainty increased to levels not seen in over two years.

Not everyone believes that sales tax holidays are valuable, even though millions of people take advantage.

The Tax Foundation has found the tax-free holidays "do not promote significant economic growth or significantly increase consumer purchases," adding that they simply shift the timing of purchases.

"Some retailers raise prices during the holiday, reducing consumer savings," said the foundation. It said that the 16 states holding a holiday in 2019 is down from a peak of 19 in 2010 and from 17 last year.

However, Bostwick said that, while some shoppers might have bought items for their children anyway in the period, "with making it an event, it might encourage some to spend a little bit more and get into the shopping zone."

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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