Thousands pack malls, stores during tax free weekend

Posted at 9:31 PM, Aug 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-06 23:18:57-04

It's hard to believe that students across Tampa Bay will be heading back to school in just a few short days. But before the first bell rings, families are packing into retail stores and shopping malls to stock up on back to school essentials, while taking advantage of the state's tax free weekend.

While a discount in sales tax might not seem like a lot, when you couple it with the big discounts many stores are offering, parents and families say every little bit helps.

For mom of three Barbara Lawson, back to school shopping can be boiled down into two words.

"Very expensive," Lawson said.

That's why she and thousands of other families in Florida, are thrilled to take advantage of the state's tax free weekend.

"We don't have  a lot of money, but we were able to save a lot. It's been a blessing. We got about three pair of shoes. She came yesterday with her grandma and grandma got her all her clothes and school supplies and everybody saved a lot of money," said parent Tony Spencer.

While clothes and shoes are high on the list for many families, a lot of teens look forward to finding the best back-to-school accessory.

"Really cool backpacks!" said 7th grader Anika Torres.

This year, bags with leather or bright colors are considered especially trendy. The good news is that backpacks join shoes, clothing and classroom supplies on the list of items eligible for this weekend's tax holiday. And families are finding stores offering great sales, some more than 70 percent off to help give the budget a big break.

"30 percent off, some 50. Some buy one, get one half price. So that's pretty good," said Lawson.

And even as they pack the malls, and enjoy the final days of summer break, families are already thinking about how to put their best foot forward when kids head back to class.

"Actually I'm in 8th grade now, and I'm looking to change my behavior and get good grades," said student Kedesha James.

"Everybody that's going back to school just be safe!  Parents, make sure you watch out for your kids as they go to the bus stops.  We're in a crazy world.  Hold onto your babies," said Spencer.

The sales tax break will run all the way through the end of the day Sunday.  When it's all said and done, shoppers are expected to save a total of $40 million.