- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Retailers had mixed reactions to last week's sales-tax holiday in the District. While several reported double-digit increases in sales and customer traffic, most said the turnout wasn't equal to that generated during the same type of tax break a year ago.
"We were not seeing a large interest or foot traffic in our Georgetown or D.C. stores like there was for the one a year before," said Lee Smith, marketing manager for the Staples office supply stores in the D.C. region.
"Last year, one out of every four customers was aware of the tax break and taking advantage of it," Mr. Smith said. "This year, the date for the tax holiday was earlier and there were not many ads out in the mainstream about it."
Dropping the 5.75 percent sales tax, the city offered a 10-day tax break that ended Sunday. The break was meant to encourage back-to-school shopping on clothing, shoes and school supplies costing less than $100 per item.
The idea began last year as a way to increase retail sales and draw more residential shoppers to spend locally rather than buy permanently tax-exempted clothing in Delaware and Pennsylvania shops.
Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, who sponsored the legislation for the tax exemption, said she expected better results than those during last year's tax holiday, but she also noted a lack of public awareness for the event.
"We were hoping that it would do better than the last two years because it was the only jurisdiction in the region that was doing any tax relief," Mrs. Schwartz said, noting that Maryland and Virginia had offered similar tax holidays during the same time period last year. "But the event wasn't played up in the media and it wasn't getting the message out to people to make an impact, so we're not sure how the results will be."
Emil Mizahri, owner of Shoe Gallery in Northwest, said customers also didn't want to brave high temperatures last week. "It was hot and not right before school was starting, so we didn't have the last-minute crowd," he said.
Mr. Mizahri said the store reported a lower sales increase around 10 percent to 20 percent total than was recorded for the tax holiday last year.
But Hecht's, the major department store in Northwest, had a considerable increase in sales and customers, spokeswoman Diane Daily said.
"The results so far are very similar from the one last year, but more people seemed to know about it this year and definitely more people in the District took advantage of it," Miss Daily said. "We are seeing high double-digit sales for the holiday."
Kids & Moms, a children's apparel shop in Northeast, also said it sold more school uniforms on a weekday during the tax break than on a typical weekend.
"A lot of people told us they were waiting for the tax holiday, so business was so slow the week before," store manager Eun Park said. "But during the tax-free week, it really picked up and we made out slightly better than last year."
The increase in sales is one reason Mrs. Schwartz said she'd like to see more tax holidays for the District. "What we need to improve on is getting more of D.C. residents and out-of-towners aware of this opportunity so they can capitalize on it," she said.

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