With 10 days in Illinois’ first-ever tax-free holiday, retailers in the Illinois Quad-Cities have seen shoppers stretching out their back-to-school shopping the past week.
Darcy Jacks, area director of mall marketing and business development for SouthPark and NorthPark malls, said Illinois’ new tax-free holiday is bringing the influx of shoppers into Moline’s SouthPark that Davenport’s NorthPark has enjoyed from Iowa’s decade-old tax-free holiday.
“It seems like the tax-free holiday always kicks off the back-to-school shopping so it’s natural to see an increase in traffic,” she said. But the shopping was not concentrated in a single weekend on the Illinois side – as it is in Iowa — due to Illinois’ 10-day holiday. “It’s been (busy) all week.”
Illinois joined the growing number of states offering tax-free shopping for back-to-school shoppers when Gov. Pat Quinn signed the holiday into law in July. The state’s holiday began Aug. 6 and runs through Sunday.
The new holiday overlapped Iowa’s event, which was held last weekend — the first weekend in August — as it has been for a decade.
“In the past, we would definitely see an increase in our Iowa traffic,” Jacks said. “SouthPark always tried to stay competitive with its 7 percent-off sale, but that was always limited to participating retailers.”
With Illinois new legislation, shoppers across the state had 10 days to buy eligible back-to-school items without paying the state’s 5-percent sales tax.
“As far as customer traffic, it was up,” said Tena Knapp, the manager of Moline’s Kmart. Her store hosted the governor for a visit Aug. 6 as he kicked off the first-time tax holiday.
Knapp said Quinn did not discuss what would happen in the future. “He said ‘this was the first year for Illinois and a long time coming.’ But hopefully it will happen again next year,” she said.
Nancy Patterson, the store manager of J.C. Penney at SouthPark, also hopes to see the event return. “I think it’s made a difference. We’ve seen a lot more traffic in the mall.”
Jacks, who handles marketing for both the Simon Property Group malls, said the Illinois holiday came up quickly for retailers who only had a month between when it was approved. “People are eager to shop right now and find the best deals. It’s great because our retailers are not only offering the 5 percent off, they’re offering additional incentives and promotions.”
Illinois became one of two new states — along with Maryland — to offer the sales holiday for the first time this year. They joined 17 other states already with tax-free shopping events.
Illinois officials estimated that suspending the state’s 5 percent share of the sales tax would cost between $40 million and $60 million. Local sales taxes still have been collected.
The break for shoppers comes as the state faces a $13 billion deficit.
Iowa was one of the early states to jump on board with the tax-free holidays back in 2000 — one year after Texas introduced it. In its last formal study of the holiday’s fiscal impact, Iowa estimated consumers saved about $2.7 million in 2005.