Tax Free Weekend draws thousands to South Florida malls

SWEETWATER, Fla. (WSVN) — Families flocked to shopping centers across South Florida on Saturday to take advantage of big savings as part of the state’s Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday.

Shoppers who headed to Dolphin mall in Sweetwater were mindful that the start of the 2017-18 school year was fast approaching. “My kids really keep up with that and make me go out, even if I don’t want to,” said Niurka Garcia, a mother of three.

It might be a mandatory shopping weekend for many, but shoppers still pointed out the significant discounts. “It’s a great savings. I mean, you have to, you have to,” said Garcia.

The savings were hard to resist for sixth-grader Gabriella Revuelta, who took the opportunity to stock up on school supplies. “Backpacks, pencils, papers, a bunch of things,” she said.

The sales are giving parents an opportunity to teach their children a lesson on how and when to save. “Well, she showed like, on social media, and I’m like, ‘OK, so we should go to the mall,” said ninth-grader Elizabeth Revuelta.

“Every year, we shop during this weekend because it costs less, and you save money,” said a teen as she stood next to her mother.

The list of tax exempt items include:

  • Most school supplies selling for $15 or less per item
  • Most clothing and footwear selling for $60 or less per item
  • Personal computers and accessories for non-commercial use selling for $750 or less per item

The savings are 7 percent in Miami-Dade County and 6 percent in Broward County, where 7News cameras captured shoppers walking with bags in hand at Sawgrass Mills Mall.

“You don’t have to pay tax. That’s why I came out here,” said one woman.

“It’s very important. I have two boys who are in elementary school, and they’re rough on their clothes,” said Rachel Terlizzi, who drove to Sawgrass Mills from Stuart. “If I can take the advantage of having tax savings, it enables me to get more for my money.”

Some retailers told 7News they treat the tax holiday like Black Friday.

For one mother, Saturday’s trip to the mall marked the end of her back-to-school shopping. “Everything’s done. I checked everything off my list already,” she said.

Preparations for a new school year are happening all around South Florida, including Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, where the community was treated to a fun-filled day of music, activities, food and giveaways.

Representatives from train service company Brightline were on hand to give away 1,000 backpacks. “Going back to school is always one of those mixed emotions for children. We just want to make it a positive experience and give them the tools that they need to focus on their education,” said Brightline CEO Dave Howard.

Those backpacks were stuffed with school supplies as well.

Backpacks featured prominently in some of the head-to-toe looks on display during a fashion show for shoppers at Miami International Mall put on by Macy’s. The ensembles gave parents and students some trendy ideas as the countdown to the first day of school continued.

More backpacks were handed out during a shopping spree for 20 foster children in Hollywood. Organizers said the event’s goal is to boost the students’ self-esteem, so they can put their best foot forward when school starts.

“We provide them an opportunity to come back and actually shop for their own clothes and pick out stuff that they like, and be able to go back to school with the self-confidence and smiles that are needed for first days,” said Erica Herman, executive director of Voices for Children of Broward.

Online shoppers can also take advantage of the tax holiday. Their orders, however, must be placed no later than 11:59 p.m. on Sunday.

For a complete list of what is and is not included during Florida’s Tax-Free Weekend, click here.

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