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Staff photo by Mike Pare / The Target store on Highway 153 in Hixson was a near-constant flow of shoppers in and out near noon Friday during the first day of Tennessee's sales tax holiday weekend.

Tennessee's first of two sales tax holiday weekends kicked off Friday with Chattanooga stores seeing a lot of foot traffic even as a number of shoppers said they're not buying as much as last year.

Some masked-up parents said the coronavirus outbreak has created a tax holiday unlike any other, and that they're curbing spending due to uncertainty over how much in-person class instruction schools will offer.

April Crenshaw of Chattanooga said she thinks that with coronavirus cases rising, schools which are planning to open for classes may end up offering much more virtual instruction instead.

"I didn't buy a bunch of supplies for them," she said at Northgate Mall. "I didn't buy uniforms like usual."

Crenshaw said she wanted to wait and see what happens with schools.

"Normally, I'd have four or five bags," she quipped. The woman said she was shopping Friday for her church, which was providing free back-to-school supplies for some people.

Amy Pruett of Chattanooga said the coronavirus "definitely" has affected her buying decisions this year.

"It's different," she said. "We've never been through this before."

School schedules also are affecting how much she's buying, Pruett said. She said she's closely following what schools are planning to do and trying to figure out what instruction eventually will look like.

Ryann Torigian of Hixson said she, too, wasn't making as many purchases this year as on past sales tax holiday weekends.

She said it was unclear how many days of in-person class time there will be when school begins, though she was going ahead and buying needed items such as clothes and other goods.

"We're trying to live life as usual," she said.

Scottie Hays of Chattanooga said she wasn't doing anything different when it came to buying school stuff this year than in the past. Hays said she is buying items online, as she typically makes a lot of purchases over the internet.

Merchants said Friday they were seeing quite a few shoppers.

"It has been pretty busy today," said Miranda Browning, manager at the Old Navy at The Terrace at Hamilton Place. But, she said, traffic is less than it's been on prior sales tax holiday weekends.

Browning said curbside pickup has been a popular option for shoppers.

Derick Bunch, who works at the Electronic Express in Hixson, said that sales at the store have done "pretty good today."

Personal computers, laptops, cellphones, tablets and printers were among the most popular items along with televisions, he said.

TAX HOLIDAY

To see which items are tax-exempt, go to Sales Tax Holiday - TN.gov.

The Tennessee General Assembly approved two sales tax holiday weekends to help Tennesseans save money and support the economy.

The first tax-free weekend began Friday and runs through Sunday. During this time, clothing, school supplies, computers and other qualifying electronic devices may be purchased tax free.

Exempted items sold online are also eligible, though those goods must be purchased for personal use and not for business or trade, according to the state.

The second tax-free holiday weekend focuses on restaurant sales. It begins on Friday, Aug. 7, and ends the following Sunday.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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