Families prepare for school year with tax-free shopping weekend | Local News

Shoppers picked through a rainbow sea of 2-pocket folders lined neatly along the back wall at Target on Wards Road Sunday. Children hung onto the sides of carts as their parents compared the prices of two different pencil sets.

A mother and daughter stood side-by-side looking at two types of binder sizes — which did they need, 1 or 1 ½ inch?

From Friday through Sunday, Lynchburg area shoppers filled their carts with glue sticks, pencils and marble-cover notebooks during Virginia’s sales-tax free weekend.

“This is kind of what gets us excited,” said Diana Clements, a teacher at Liberty Christian Academy, as she picked up 25 individual packets of crayons, markers and colored pencils, one for each student in her fourth grade class. “It’s sort of like Black Friday shopping for Christmas.”

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), back-to-school and back-to-college spending is set to reach $83.6 billion. This will be the second-highest spending year on record, increasing more than 10 percent from 2016’s $75.8 billion, the NRF’s annual back-to-school surveys released in July showed.

This holds true with Lynchburg’s turnout.

James Hornsby, manager at Walmart on Wards Road, said he saw larger crowds during the weekend, especially on Friday.

“The whole month of August is ever so busy,” said Hornsby. “Families are bringing their kids in to try on school clothes or try on shoes. So, sometimes we only have Mom and Dad, but this time, you usually have Mom and Dad with three or four kids with them.”

Walmart on Wards Road had six additional aisles as well as several stand-alone displays specifically for back-to-school supplies, while employees at the Target further down the street filled the store’s seasonal section with everything from locker décor and purple, glitter-filled glue bottles to graphing calculators and mini fridges.

“We’ll continue to see traffic throughout this whole week and next weekend and then it actually shifts to a more back-to-college theme as opposed to grade school,” said Thomas Joyner, Target team leader for logistics. “Next weekend, we’ll see a shift in shopping. … The traffic will shift throughout the whole store — bedding, storage. So this is sort of the kickoff to back-to-school season.”

Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of plan to spend an average $687.72, with about $114.12 on school supplies and the rest on apparel and electronics, according to the NRF’s most recent survey.

Savings during the tax-free holiday can really add up, especially for families with multiple children, said Tabitha Brown, whose two daughters, Anesa and Ayana, attend school in Nelson County.

“If I’m buying clothes and supplies, I usually save at least $20 to $30 more,” she said. “That’s a book bag. It saves a lot.”

Such as in the past two years, the tax-free holiday in Virginia also enabled customers to save on hurricane and emergency preparedness supplies as well as Energy Star and WaterSense items.

But most shoppers still used it for school shopping.

“We’re hunting for cap erasers now,” said Clements, pushing her cart up the aisles. “The colorful ones, because kids want colors not the plain ones.”

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