Oklahoma retailers gear up as back-to-school approaches

Weather and sales tax holidays are big drivers of back-to-school sales, an analyst says. Oklahoma's sales-tax-free weekend will be Aug. 3-5.
by Jennifer Palmer Published: July 9, 2012

Hot summer days are forecast for the foreseeable future, but retailers are eager to get a jump on back-to-school sales.

Target and Walmart stores are clearing out summer items such as patio furniture, beach balls and coolers to make way for pencils, notebooks and backpacks. Clothing retailers are selling swimsuits, shorts and tank tops at as much as 70 percent off — while moving jeans and long-sleeved Ts front and center.

The Fourth of July is typically a transition period for retailers that sell clothing, school supplies and electronics. But there are two sales drivers more important than the calendar: weather and sales tax holidays, said Michael Niemira, chief economist for the International Council of Shopping Centers, which predicts total back-to-school sales in the U.S. to be $40.4 billion this year, a 2.5 increase from 2011.

A bout of cooler weather in July or August could stimulate fall clothing purchases, he said. That's not likely in Oklahoma. The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center says above-average temperatures are expected through August.

The state will have a sales tax holiday again this year, set for Aug. 3-5. During those three days, clothing and shoes priced under $100 will be sold tax-free. School supplies and backpacks are not included.

But Oklahoma City Public Schools students will be back in class Aug. 1 — two days before the state sales tax holiday, a time many parents use to stock up on school clothes and shoes.

Paula Ross, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Tax Commission, said the Legislature hasn't considered changing the date to accommodate parents whose children start school earlier.

The holiday is meant to give everyone a tax break, she said, not just parents with school-age children. There are many items included, such as diapers, wedding apparel, lab coats and uniforms, that aren't traditional back-to-school items.

by Jennifer Palmer
Investigative Reporter
Jennifer Palmer joined The Oklahoman staff in 2008 and, after five years on the business desk, is now digging deeper through investigative work. She's been recognized with awards in public service reporting and personal column writing. Prior to...
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State sales tax holiday

• When: Aug. 3-5.

• Who: All retailers must participate.

• What: Clothing and shoes under $100. Find a complete list online at www.tax.ok.gov/stholiday.html.

Source: Oklahoma Tax Commission

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