SIKESTON -- With the sales tax holiday merely weeks away, local businesses are currently preparing for what they believe will be a profitable weekend for the city of Sikeston.
"We're really excited about it," said Lisa Neumeyer, manager of Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores. "Most of our merchants have had these tax free holidays before (in other states) and we're hoping to pull people from southern Illinois and western Kentucky."
The three day-shopping spree, which is set for Aug. 13-15, is expected to save Missouri families as much as 9 percent on their back-to-school purchases -- a total savings of more than $3 million statewide.
Families can purchase clothing and shoes, up to $50 in school supplies and up to $2,000 in computer equipment and software tax free.
"I know last year Sikeston didn't do it (sales tax exemption) and my biggest concern was that a lot of our sales revenue went somewhere else," said Sikeston Wal-Mart Manager James Miller. "And not only did people purchase school items, but they bought other things, too. As a result, I think Sikeston ultimately lost tax revenue from it."
Charleston, New Madrid and Dexter as well as Mississippi, New Madrid and Stoddard counties have opted not to participate in the sales tax holiday this year.
With these other cities and counties not participating in the sales tax exempt, Marc Edwards, manager of Office Max in Sikeston, said he hopes it will bring more business to Sikeston.
"We're expecting a pretty good increase," Edwards said. "Of course, most of the schools start that next week like the 18th and none of the surrounding counties are participating in the tax break."
Although Sikeston has opted to honor the sales tax exemption, the city lies in both Scott and New Madrid counties with several retailers located in New Madrid County, where the county tax is not exempt. But Scott County Clerk Rita Milam pointed out there is no one set sales tax rate in a county. There is a sales tax set for each city and one rate for rural areas of the county.
"Whatever city you buy something in, you go by that rate," Milam explained. "But when you buy a car, you don't go by the rate of the city you buy the car in, but by the sales tax where you live." Karen Bailey, city of Sikeston treasurer, said as long as merchants are located in the corporate city limits of Sikeston, they can participate in the city sales tax exemption. Both the Sikeston and Miner sales tax is 7.225 cents.
Bailey noted city officials aren't really sure what to expect about the sales tax holiday.
"It'll be at the same time as the rodeo. It may encourage people to go out and buy more and it may not be an item that will be exempt," Bailey said.
Missouri Chamber of Commerce encourages retailers to stock up on their inventory, train sales staff to minimize confusion in the checkout lanes, to advertise and to clarify which items qualify for sales tax exemption.
To prepare Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores' employees, Neumeyer has been sending out periodic updates, reminding them to keep aware of what's going on and to have contact with their store's home office, she said.
"We really are expecting a big day. Our stores are loaded for back-to- school. We have big selections of back-to-school clothing," Neumeyer said.
Neumeyer said SFOS are trying to get the word out about the sales tax holiday by passing out fliers at its stores and at hotels.
With only certain items exempt from taxes, store employees will also have to be aware of which items are exempt plus use the exempt keys on their cash registers, Neumeyer explained.
For Wal-Mart, Miller said the three-day transition will be easy.
"Our corporate office does all of it. Everything is computerized, and they just match a new tax table and download it for us," Miller explained. "Now some of the smaller retailers might have more work to do to get ready."
Neumeyer said all SFOS employees will have to do is use their exempt keys on their cash registers and simply be aware of what is tax free. Belt buckles, for instance, and tennis shoes over $100 wouldn't be exempt, she pointed out.
Edwards said he thinks the Office Max corporate office will be able to make the tax exempts via computer.
"I think we're going to do well," Edwards predicted. "We're gearing up for it and expect it to be the busiest time."
And for those who plan on getting out during the three-day holiday, Edwards advised: Shop early.
Like Neumeyer and Edwards, Miller also thinks the weekend will bring big sales to Sikeston.
"I think it will be a huge weekend," Miller assured. "I'm just glad the community did it this year. I'm looking forward to it."
For more information about the sales tax, visit www.mochamber.com.