Local stores report uptick in trade on tax holiday

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  • Maria Polino of Amherst considers a chair for her family room during a visit to Fly By Night in Northampton on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, the first day of the state tax-free weekend. She and her husband did purchase a chair as well as a bed set for their son. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Bicycle sales associate Adele Paquin, facing camera, gets an impromptu hug from customer Tammy Wozniak of Chicopee who just purchased a hybrid bike at the Pleasant Street shop on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, the first day of the state tax-free weekend. "They're so nice," said Wozniak. "She let us ride the bikes while she put the (new) bike rack on our car." Paquin added, "I had to get rid of them for a little while because it was crazy busy in here." —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Yes Computers sales associate Quinten Castillo, left, helps Jill Toler, right, of Pelham with a small purchase not long after her partner, Ruth Elcan, center, had bought a custom-built iMac at the Northampton store on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, the first day of the state tax-free weekend. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Shoppers visit the100 block of Main Street in Northampton on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, the first day of the state tax-free weekend. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Bicycle sales associate Adele Paquin helps Tammy Wozniak of Chicopee mount her new hybrid bike onto a new bike rack on Saturday, the first day of the state tax-free weekend. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Tammy Wozniak, left, of Chicopee gives a tug to the hybrid bikes she just purchased from Northampton Bicycle sales associate Adele Paquin who had just mounted them onto Wozniak's new bike rack on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, the first day of the state tax-free weekend. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Joseph Polino of Amherst tries out a chair for his family room during a visit to Fly By Night in Northampton with his wife, Maria, left, and daughter, Francesca, on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, the first day of the state tax-free weekend. The trio did settle on a chair as well as a bed set. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Fly By Night store manager Paul Szumski, left, helps Joseph and Maria Polino and their daughter, Francesca, consider a chair at the Northampton store on Saturday, the first day of the state tax-free weekend. The family ended up buying a chair for their family room as well as a bed set for their son. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 8/19/2019 12:00:01 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Fresh popcorn and a bin of free seltzer sat inside the door at Yes Computers on Sunday. Staff at the store was doubled and the hours extended. Balloons decorated the store’s entrance. The store was ready for the tax-free weekend — when the state forgoes the 6.25 percent sales tax on most items.

“It’s by far our busiest weekend of the year,” said Mark Wineburg, the store’s owner.

Some customers planned in advance to buy items that weekend, he said, and others had an extra incentive to purchase something they had been eyeing. He thinks the tax-free weekend pumps money into the local economy by encouraging people to buy items they might have otherwise purchased online or in a state without sales tax, like New Hampshire.

Like Yes Computers, many stores in Northampton and around the Valley were busy with customers on Sunday.

The annual two-day tax “holiday” made items $2,500 or less bought for personal use tax-free. Exceptions to the deal include electricity, cars, meals, alcohol and marijuana. The state loses an estimated $26 million in annual tax revenue, but many businesses report an uptick in sales.

“Historically, the weekend has been good for us,” said Aaron Borucki, a co-owner of Downtown Sounds. He said people will wait for the weekend to purchase an item.

One customer who was on vacation called in to buy a high-end $1,500 keyboard that Borucki said he will deliver.

“People were waiting for this day,” said Jim Kennedy, co-owner of Competitive Edge Ski and Bike in Easthampton.

“People are looking to take advantage of it. They bought everything from all seasons,” he said. Kennedy said he sold a number of bikes, pairs of skis and bike racks over the weekend.

Some stores added on extra discounts to further entice customers. Ten Thousand Villages offered an extra 25 percent off one item for the weekend. Foot traffic in the store was busy, said area manager Karen Shanahan. “They really are happy to get a bit of savings.”

Not everyone knew it was a tax holiday. At Full Circle Bike Shop in Florence, sales associate Chris Rodriguez said he would tell people about the deal. “Most of the customers that came in here were surprised that we were reminding them it was tax-free weekend,” he said. Traffic in the store did not spike, which Rodriguez thinks could be due to the timing during “peak vacation week” and the good weather.

Northampton furniture store Fly By Night was bustling with people sitting on leather couches and chairs and perusing ottomans and end tables.

“This is the busiest day of the year for furniture,” Richard Zafft, the store’s president, said while taking a quick break from answering calls and talking to customers.

While Zafft said it can be fun to be busy, he doesn’t think that the day helps the business overall. Like the other stores, people wait for the “holiday” to make their purchase. Leading up to the weekend people come in to look but, “no one buys anything for weeks,” he said. Then over the tax-free weekend, the store is filled with customers. “It forces us to work harder,” he said.

Typically, in the coming weeks, Zafft said, people are “shopped out.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.


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