August 13, 2009

To turn the tide, retailers set sales

By RICHARD MULLINS/The Tampa Tribune

Florida's state budget couldn’t accommodate any tax-free weeks this year, an irony not lost on parents facing their own grim budgets.

No state-subsidized discounts for jeans or shoes. No artificial price cuts on plywood or batteries for hurricane season.

Retailers starving for foot traffic have their own ideas about that.

J.C. Penny, Beall’s and other retailers have started offering what they call “Tax Relief” or “Tax Holiday” deals leading into August.

In essence, they’re offering a 6 percent to 10 percent discount, depending on the retailer – a price cut that probably won't faze shoppers who barely turn an eye unless it’s a 50 percent sale or a buy-one-get-one-free deal.

There are plenty of those deals out there lately. A rough sampling of big-name retailers:

Old Navy is offering 20 percent off any online purchase over $100.

Sears is offering 50 percent off school uniforms and 50 percent off backpacks, with other discounts on items such as underwear and socks for children.

Speaking of uniforms, the French Toast-brand school uniform company dropped prices online so an 11-piece uniform wardrobe costs about $107: six tops, four pants, one skort and one sweater. ( Normally, the company sells its stock in Kmart, Burlington Coat Factory and other locations.

Macy's is offering up to 50 percent off on children’s clothing and a buy-two-get-one-free deal on uniforms. Scores of online retailers are offering free shipping on purchases as little as $50.

The office supply stores are in the mix, too. Staples offers 1-cent notebooks, $1 bricks of printer paper and $5 coupons on anything else in the store.

Office Depot offers a free backpack with any $10 in-store purchase and a free Papa John’s pizza for some orders.

As for “tax-free” discounts, there’s a catch. At the checkout line, retailers will start with the discounted price, then add tax to the total.