News Column

Texas Tax-free Weekend: El Paso Families to Shop for School Savings

Aug. 16, 2012

David Burge

Shop for School Savings

All families want to stretch their paychecks.

Parents with school-age children and other consumers will have a golden opportunity to save serious cash this weekend -- if they are willing to deal with crowds.

The annual Texas Sales Tax Holiday Weekend will begin at 12:01 a.m. Friday and last until midnight Sunday. Most malls and many retailers in El Paso will have extended hours and are expecting loads of shoppers.

Most clothing, shoes, backpacks and school supplies that

cost less than $100 are exempt from sales taxes for three days.

Texas consumers are expected to save an estimated $64.8 million in state and local taxes this weekend, according to the Texas comptroller's office.

In El Paso, the sales tax rate is 8.25 percent, which means that consumers can save $8.25 for each $100 spent on qualifying items.

"Our back-to-school season is actually bigger than Christmas at Office Depot," said Errol Muller, store manager for the Office Depot on the West Side. Tax-free weekend is "perfect for back-to-school shopping and for parents looking to save as much as possible on school supplies," Muller said.

The company has five stores in El Paso. All of its stores in Texas will stay open to midnight Friday

and will offer special discounts from 9 to midnight that evening, Muller said.

In addition, Office Depot will sell school supplies starting as low as a penny each week during the back-to-school season through early September, Muller said.

Westsider Georgina Panahi has two daughters, ages 6 and 3. They plan to take advantage of the tax-free weekend to stock up on clothes and school supplies.

They will go shopping early Saturday and beat the crowds, Panahi said.

"It's a huge cost savings for any parent," she said.

Just how busy will it be? JCPenney reports that traffic at its stores during tax-free weekend can be as heavy as on Thanksgiving weekend.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, meanwhile, is reminding border crossers to expect busier-than-normal traffic at ports of entry.

Texas is one of 18 states offering tax-free events this back-to-school season, said Kay Bell, contributing tax editor for, a national personal-finance website.

"Shoppers like it," Bell said. "It's a great bonus for shoppers who are buying kids clothes for school anyway. Shoppers are potential voters. Anything that makes potential voters happy, lawmakers usually sign on to."

Consumers need to remember to try not "to get suckered into buying items that aren't tax-free this weekend," Bell said.

"That can negate any savings," Bell said.

At Bassett Place, the tax-free weekend is the third-busiest time of year, behind Christmas and Mother's Day-Easter, said marketing manager Marguerite Byers.

The mall will be have extended hours Friday through Sunday. It will also have a back-to-school fair featuring entertainment, arts and crafts for kids and art vendors on Saturday and Sunday.

Costco, one of Bassett's anchor tenants, will have a grand reopening to celebrate its renovation and reorganization of its store on Saturday, Byers said. There will be an open house for nonmembers, but you need to be a member to make purchases. A free car show will take place in the Costco parking lot, she added.

"It's a big weekend," Byers said.

Many retailers offer sales and promotions to increase savings beyond what consumers get from the tax-free weekend, said Cindy Foght, area director of marketing for both Cielo Vista and Sunland Park malls.

"It's a great opportunity for shoppers," Foght said. "Retailers offer a lot of great deals to accommodate any family budget."

Cielo Vista will have a back-to-school expo on Saturday and Sunday. Sunland Park will have an expo on Saturday only.

The idea is to invite families to come to the mall and take advantage of specials but also provide family entertainment and showcase local talent, Foght said.

"It just makes it a fun weekend," Foght said.

Big crowds are also expected at the Outlet Shoppes at El Paso.

Visitors from New Mexico plan trips to El Paso just to take advantage of the tax-free weekend, said Gina Slechta, vice president of marketing for Horizon Group Properties, which manages the outlet mall.

"It's really a big thing," she said.

The outlet mall, though, won't have extended hours.

"Our regular hours are very aggressive, and we found that tax-free weekend is a time to shop with children," Slechta said.

Outlet mall shoppers will also have the opportunity to meet Iron Man on Saturday.

"It's been extremely busy in the past for us, and we're expecting it to be extremely busy this weekend," Slechta said. "People literally save up for this weekend."

To encourage shopping Downtown, the city of El Paso will waive parking meter fees for the tax-free weekend.

The city's International Bridge Department, which oversees the parking meter program, will offer free parking at all city parking meters Friday and Saturday. Parking meter fees are not collected on Sunday.

David Burge may be reached at; 546-6126. Follow him on Twitter @dburge1962.

Make plans

Lists of what qualifies for tax-exempt status during the Texas Sales Tax Holiday Weekend from Friday through Sunday can be found at

Hours for local malls

Bassett Place

-- 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.

Outlet Shoppes at El Paso

-- 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. Iron Man will meet customers from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Cielo Vista and Sunland Park malls

-- Extended hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon-8 p.m. Sunday. -- Cielo Vista will have a back-to-school expo Saturday and Sunday during mall hours. Dance exhibitions will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and fashion shows at 2 and 3 p.m. Sunday. -- Sunland Park Mall will have an expo from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday with a fashion show at 3 p.m. and entertainment by "Viva! El Paso." -- The Simon Kidgits Club will have activities from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Cielo Vista and from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday at Sunland Park.

Office Depot

-- Stores in El Paso will be open 8 a.m. to midnight Friday with a special savings event from 9 p.m. to midnight. Regular hours Saturday (9 a.m.-9 p.m.) and Sunday (10 a.m.-7 p.m.). -- Office Depot is also trying to help teachers with its Teacher Appreciation Week that ends Saturday. All El Paso Office Depot stores will have a free breakfast for teachers from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday. -- Teachers are also eligible to receive 20 percent off regularly priced in-store purchases through Saturday.

JCPenney Cielo Vista Mall and far East Side stores

-- Hours: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Downtown store

-- Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.

Source: (c)2012 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas). Distributed by MCT Information Services

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters