Melissa Williamson's reason for heading out to shop Saturday during Georgia's tax-free weekend was plain and simple.
"To save money," she said.
Williamson arrived at Wal-Mart on Airport Thruway for some back-to-school shopping with daughters Morgan, 13, and Kamryn, 9. With the tough economy, the Columbus mother said she was sticking to a $350 budget - less than what the family has spent in years past.
"It’s less, but we’re going to try to get sale items," said Williamson, 28. "If you get sale items and you don’t have the tax added to it, I think it's a good deal."
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The Williamsons joined other shoppers across the Columbus area looking for bargains during the state’s tax-free weekend. Until midnight Sunday, shoppers can skip out on state and local taxes on certain apparel, computers and school supplies.
For some, the tax-free weekend was a welcome break — and worth the risk of encountering crowds and long lines.
“It’s stuff you’re going to have to buy anyway,” said Rachel Shanaman, who shopped at the Airport Thruway Wal-Mart. The 30-year-old Columbus mother of three said she hoped to slash her back-to-school budget this year from $500 to $350.
Other families like the Shanamans also plan to cut back this shopping season. According to the National Retail Federation, four out of five Americans said they are making changes to back-to-school budgets because of the economy. A NRF consumer survey revealed 56.2 percent planned to hunt for sales more often, 49.6 planned to spend less overall and 41.7 percent said they were purchasing more store brand and generic products.
"They’re getting less clothes this year," Shanaman said of her young children.
Other shoppers braved the weekend crowds for deals beyond back-to-school. At Kohl’s in Columbus Park Crossing, Albany, Ga., resident Alvita Swain joined husband Reginald as he checked out a suit on sale for $74.99. Alvita Swain said the 6 percent "discount" of a tax break was worth it - especially since many stores advertised concurrent sales for the weekend.
"This is the one time of the year when I would spend more than usual because you can get more bang for your buck - especially on higher ticket items," she said.
The Columbus Kohl's offered several other promotions over the weekend: additional discounts during certain shopping hours and $10 Kohl's cash for every $50 spent, for example.
Barbara Beaudin, Kohl's manager, said Saturday the store had seen more purchases beyond the typical tax-exempt items such as backpacks, jeans, and shoes.
"A lot of add-on sales," she said. "We really didn’t have any categories yesterday that weren’t touched."
In Kohl’s footwear section, Nancy Reid, 66, browsed the aisles for a pair of tennis shoes, which she needed for an upcoming trip to Europe. The Seale, Ala., woman said she didn't think the tax-free weekend was that big of a break.
"It is a little bit," she said. "I think if you had a lot to buy, yes."