North Carolina appliance retailers are hoping to cash in on the states last tax-exempt weekend for qualified Energy Star appliances, which they say has become one of their busiest weekends since it was introduced five years ago.
From Friday through Sunday, customers wont have to pay sales tax when they purchase energy-efficient washers, freezers, air conditioners and other major appliances. In Wake County, that means an extra savings of 6.75 percent, while shoppers in Orange County can save 7.5 percent.
Independent retailers said tax-free weekend has been an important push for store sales and traffic flow.
Its definitely a good boost, a shot in the arm, said Randy Pleasant, co-owner of Garner TV & Appliances in Raleigh. Were already seeing people coming in to pre-shop, and they'll be ready to purchase on Friday morning.
The N.C. Department of Revenue estimates the appliance program resulted in $1.6 million worth of lost tax revenue statewide last year.
In August, the state held its final back-to-school tax-exempt weekend, which offered discounts on items such as clothing, backpacks and computers. That program came with an estimated cost of $13.6 million in lost tax revenue.
Both programs are ending as a result of tax changes this year passed by the N.C. General Assembly. Opponents said the tax-exempt weekends cost the state revenue and just shifted consumers purchases from other times to those weeks.
The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association has been pushing to keep the program, citing research that shows consumers who often use the additional savings from their tax-free purchases buy more goods.
Merchants said theyll miss the sales bump.
Sometimes folks would place orders for a fridge or dishwasher that they didn't intend to replace, but would do so for the savings, said Bill Ginsler, appliances specialist with Kitchen & Bath galleries, which has four stores in the Triangle.
Without the tax-exempt pricing, some retailers say they plan to come up with other discount and promotions that are similar to the program. Pleasant said Garner TV & Appliances is considering holding its own "in house" shopping weekend next year that offers similar incentives to the tax free program. But the retailer doesnt yet have a clear plan of how that might work, he said.
Wilkinson Supply, a family-owned bath and kitchen appliances retailer in Raleigh, adopts a unilateral pricing strategy.
Typically the discount we give to consumers is the lowest price we're allowed to sell for, said Courtney Kane, serving manager with the retailer.
Kitchen & Bath Galleries also offer manufacturer rebates and discounts to contract distributors. But Ginsler said the company is less certain about how it plans to make up the shortfall next year.
In this economy, we do the best we can day by day, he said.