NC's tax-free weekend: Time for cool new book bags and lunch boxes

astewart@newsobserver.comJuly 31, 2013 

  • Tax-free August 2-4

    • Clothing with a sales price of $100 or less per item

    • Sport or recreational equipment with a sales price of $50 or less per item

    • Computers (including tablets and netbooks) with a sales price of $3,500 or less per item

    • Computer supplies (including printers and storage media) with a sales price of $250 or less per item

    • School supplies (including book bags) with a sales price of $100 or less per item

    • School instructional materials (including textbooks) with a sales price of $300 or less per item

    For more information: dor.state.nc.us

  • Build a Backpack!

    Tax-free weekend is a great time to help low-income children fill their backpacks with school supplies. Research Triangle Park has partnered with Communities in Schools of Durham and Wake Counties to organize three supply drives at several area Walmart stores. Drop off anything school-related – calculators, binders, glue sticks, backpacks, etc. – in one of the bins outside the store (addresses below) through Aug. 9, or organize your own supply drive. For more information, visit rtpback2school.org or contact Lisa Jemison at jemison@rtp.org or 919-549-8181. You can also mail a monetary donation to Durham-Wake Counties Research and Production Service District at 12 Davis Dr., RTP, NC 27709.

    Supply drop-off locations:

    • RTP Headquarters, 12 Davis Drive, RTP

    • Walmart, 1010 Martin Luther King Pkwy., Durham

    • Walmart, 5450 New Hope Commons Drive, Durham

    • Walmart, 1525 Glenn School Road, Durham

North Carolina’s final tax-free weekend – the summer school-shopping holiday comparable in the retail world to Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls – is upon us.

Included in this weekend’s tax-free deal are clothes, sports equipment, computers and perhaps most importantly, school supplies. And it looks like students will need some new stuff to keep up with the latest back-to-school supply trends.

What’s hot? Today’s “Me generation” is all about standing out, not blending in, so the more outrageous and cutting-edge the accoutrements, the better. Word around the locker is that neon colors and personalization are all the rage.

Staples public relations manager Mark Cautela confirms.

“Kids are looking to be very personalized, to have their own identity,” said Cautela.

In fact, one of Staples’ biggest new products, he says, is a customizable composition notebook. On the company’s website, kids can select a design and add pictures and banners to the front to make the items their own, one-of-a-kind accessory. Folders can also be customized.

Cautela also notes that bright colors are very big, along with quilted zipper binders and basically anything that glows or lights up. Bold, bright graphics on every surface imaginable are in vogue. Folders, notebooks, pencil pouches and backpacks feature every color on the spectrum, often all together.

The bag and the box

The classics – backpacks and lunch boxes – still receive the most attention.

Josh Jensen, sales associate at Omega Sports in North Hills, agreed with Cautela that bright colors are huge right now.

“They used to be plain black; now we get more bright colors like yellow, purple and green,” Jensen said of the store’s backpack inventory. Even the plainer backpacks have neon embellishments.

Jensen said the North Face brand backpacks that Omega carries are popular with older students because of their durability.

The Bright family, of Raleigh, has already been scoping out Target in hot pursuit of the trendiest bags.

Ethan, 10, only had two requisites for his perfect backpack: “I like for it to look cool,” he said. “And it needs to fit a lot of stuff.”

His brother Mason, 6, said he’s totally over the “character” trend and is instead going for the tie-dye look this fall. Plus, Ethan warns that the plastic-front character backpacks tend to break easily.

The littlest Bright, Liam, 4, is starting preschool this year. He selected a backpack with a skeleton on it. It also had an attached keychain, a feature Liam desperately desired, despite his lack of keys.

Geometric or texturized designs adorn many school supplies – including lunch boxes – as do images of celebrities (One Direction, anyone?) and cartoon characters.

Whatever the design, moms and kids alike seem to prefer the soft, insulated lunch bags to clunky boxes.

“They have to be big enough for lunches and snacks,” said Leslie Horwitz of Raleigh, shopping for new lunch boxes with her 8-year-old twin sons, Joshua and Ryan. “They’re past the ‘character’ stage. But they want to pick it out, to make sure it’s big enough and that it has enough compartments.”

And finally, an especially popular product from last year that is expected to make a comeback is the “locker chandelier,” a small motion-sensor light fixture that hangs from the top of the locker. Aspiring interior designers can also soup up their locker lounges with glittery rugs, magnetic wallpaper and beaded curtains – all to create a homey environment for those cool backpacks and lunch boxes.

Stewart: 919-829-4568

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