South Carolina sales tax holiday underway

South Carolina started its annual sales tax holiday Friday, with retailers hoping North Carolinians would stream across the state line, now that the state has discontinued its own tax-free weekend.

At the Staples store near the Rock Hill Galleria, customers were already lined up when the store opened at 8 a.m., store manager David Bishop said.

Among them was Chris Walker, who drove down from Monroe with his sister to buy school supplies for his niece and nephew, both 9.

“People need the tax-free holiday,” Walker said. “Especially people with kids. It’s easy for them.” He didn’t mind the 40-minute drive from Monroe. After Staples, he and his sister planned to visit Sam’s Club and Walmart. They plan to return Saturday to shop for clothes.

At Hibbett Sports in the Galleria, district sales manager Steven Wright said the tax-free event “is always a huge weekend.” Most of the mall’s stores have extended hours this weekend, staying open until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday.

“Rock Hill Galleria has certainly encountered an increase in shoppers today compared to a typical Friday,” said Angel Russell, the mall’s marketing manager. “We have shoppers from North Carolina also.”

South Carolina’s sales tax holiday allows shoppers to save 6 to 7 percent on their purchases of school-related items such as clothing, supplies, computers and sports equipment. Sales tax in York and Lancaster counties is 7 percent.

Walker, the Monroe shopper, said he will be even more interested in tax-free weekends when his 6-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son enter school. “I do want it back in North Carolina,” he said.

North Carolina introduced the back-to-school sales tax holiday 12 years ago, but state lawmakers’ tax overhaul last July did away with it as well as a November tax holiday for Energy Star appliances. The tax overhaul reduced corporate and personal income taxes.

Bishop, who has been at the Staples store for 14 years, recalled that South Carolina had a tax holiday for a couple of years before North Carolina’s kicked in. “The first couple of years when we were open, North Carolina didn’t have tax free,” he said. “You could really see an influx of people coming across the border to buy stuff.”

Joan Notarangelo of Illinois was visiting her in-laws in Charlotte when she decided to drive to South Carolina with her kids, both in high school. “We heard they are doing a sales tax holiday in South Carolina,” she said, “and we are very excited to drive down here.”