- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

The District's holiday season started in jolly fashion last week as shoppers flooded stores to take advantage of the city's 10 days of tax-free sales.
"It was very exciting," said D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, who co-authored the legislation. "The stores saw a real difference in the number of people shopping."
Mrs. Schwartz hopes the retail success over that period will help push through legislation to make tax-free shopping a permanent perk in the city.
The 10-day tax-free period beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving the first official day of the Christmas-shopping season resulted in increased sales for many retailers inside the city. Shoppers who bought clothing, shoes and accessories costing less than $100 were relieved of the city's 5.75 percent sales tax.
Sales increased in the District by 1.7 percent among stores that had been open at least a year, according to TeleCheck Services Inc., which tracks checks written in 27,000 locations around the country. The average check in the District was $85.30, compared with $91.99 last year, but the lack of sales tax on the merchandise accounted for much of the decrease, said William Ford, TeleCheck's senior economic adviser.
However, shoppers definitely were more active. The number of checks written in Washington from the day after Thanksgiving to this past Sunday increased 9 percent one of the biggest increases in the country, Mr. Ford said.
The tax-free holiday came just in time to help the local economy, which had been hit hard after the September 11 terrorist attacks. It was the second time this year that shoppers could take advantage of tax-free purchases. The District's first-ever tax-free week took place Aug. 3 through Aug. 12 to coincide with back-to-school shopping.
Hecht's, the only major department store downtown, saw a considerable increase in sales last week.
"It went really, really well," said Diane Daly, a Hecht's spokeswoman. "We were running double-digit increases every single day. People responded to the tax break."
The department store had sales increases across the board, including merchandise from its home section, which did not include tax-exempt items.
Retailers saw the same trend during the first tax-free shopping period, as consumers went to stores to buy exempt items and ended up buying nonexempt items, too.
The city, which had predicted a $900,000 loss during the first tax-free week in August, instead had a "couple-thousand-dollar gain" as a result of more people buying more merchandise, Mrs. Schwartz said.
Mrs. Schwartz said she would push the city's finance department to release specific figures for the latest tax holiday sooner rather than later.
She plans to use the information as a steppingstone to make all clothing, shoes and accessories less than $100 tax-free year round. At the very least, she wants to put in place another back-to-school tax-free shopping period next year.

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