Cape Ann merchants are hopeful that the state’s sales-tax “holiday” this weekend will bring in customers from near and far to buy paintings, antiques, car parts and home supplies.
Today and tomorrow, the state’s sales tax is being waived on sales of items priced at less than $2,500 — excluding vehicles, gasoline, tobacco products and meals, all of which all remain taxable.
The tax-free weekend began getting extra emphasis in 2009, after the state Legislature approved hiking the sales tax to 6.25 percent, a 25 percent increase from the previous rate of 5 percent.
Rick Grobe, who, along with his wife, co-owns The White Elephant antiques shop in Essex, said he had completely forgotten about the holiday, but hopes customers will remember.
“It’s a great thing – you know, every little bit helps,” Grobe said. “We’re so close to the New Hampshire border that people just say ‘well, then I’ll go to New Hampshire and save.’ I think if we can keep them in our state, that’s great.” New Hampshire has no sales tax.
Gloucester-based Family Car Care keeps short weekend hours, from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. today, but co-owner Tony Paone said he expects tires will be a big seller.
Paone said a customer would save about $32 on the average set of tires by not paying tax, and the business is willing to help customers save when they can.
“Even if somebody wants to buy tires, and they’re not ready to get them, they can purchase them and we’ll hold the tires here,” Paone said.
Tax-free oil changes may also draw in a few customers, Paone said, but not many, as the day is short and the tax break has little affect on a charge of that scope, he said.
“Again, you’re really only saving a dollar twenty-five,” Paone said.
Cape Ann Chamber CEO Robert Heidt said the sales-tax free weekend is unlikely to change a business’ financial course, but will likely enhance sales.
“A weekend isn’t going to solve any businesses’s financial goals that they’re trying to achieve,” Heidt said. “Still, it’s nice to have those days when customers don’t have to pay taxes.”
Heidt pointed to additional exposure from the weekend, which he said would act as a “nice jolt” to the local economy on Cape Ann.
“It helps people see things in shops that they didn’t know were there,” Heidt said. “And, if customers are welcomed into a business with open arms and they see things they like, they’ll come back.”
Bearskin Neck gallery owner Pam Wasserman, who just moved her Good Dog! Gallery from No. 36 to No. 49 on the Neck, finished cashing out a customer Friday and handed over the change.
“We won’t have to worry about these pennies for tax this weekend,” Wasserman said.
Another pair of customers, earlier in the day, had already made plans to return and take advantage of the sales tax break, she said.
“There’s some people that were looking at this beautiful, $99, handmade, wool rug and said they’d be back over the weekend, and they’d buy it then to save on tax,” Wasserman said.
Wasserman said that, for gift store owners like herself, the weekend is “more of a novelty than a tremendous help.” Still, she said, it helps entice customers, including some from other states who may be unaware of the tax breaks.
“I’ll certainly remind every one of them,” Wasserman said.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.