Sevier County cities brace for tax-free weekend boom
For Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, the annual sales tax holiday weekend means a substantial boost in sales and visitors. For Gatlinburg, which doesn't have a lot of the kinds of stores that back-to-school shoppers look for, the hope is that the savings buyers get will be spent on some of its attractions.
Tennessee's sales tax holiday period starts at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Aug. 1 and continues through Sunday night, Aug. 4. During that period shoppers won't have to pay any sales tax on certain items like clothing and computers. Sevierville has long been a major attraction during the tax-free weekend, and Pigeon Forge is a player as well.
"We promote it every year," Leon Downey, director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, said, including a mention in the city's newsletter that reaches some 500,000 subscribers. "We promote it as one more reason to shop in Sevier County. We do everything we can to promote that as a family weekend."
Pigeon Forge has more than 300 stores, including several outlets.
Amanda Marr, marketing director for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce, calls tax-free weekend "a trifecta of shopping for us."
She said locals and out-of-town visitors combined with the sales promotions by Sevierville businesses leads to a great weekend for the merchants and local attractions.
Marr said many families see the tax-free weekend as a final vacation before school starts back.
"It's a great opportunity to get some good deals on back-to-school needs and enjoy all the attractions and the mountains," she said.
In Gatlinburg, officials there hope those who take advantage of the tax-free weekend will use those savings to visit the city's popular amusements and restaurants.
"We don't think tax-free weekend has a direct influence on the money spent here," Vicki Simms, executive director of the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau, said. "But what it does is allow more money to stay in the pockets of visitors. We encourage them to take that extra money and enjoy a long weekend with us."
Downey, Marr and Simms all emphasize the hope that people will take advantage of attractions and businesses throughout the county when they shop for the tax-free savings.
In Gatlinburg the business community is encouraged to use tax-free weekend to buy school items for the Chamber of Commerce teacher supply closet. Those supplies are then given to teachers who need them in their classrooms. Many teachers buy such supplies with their own money.
The Gatlinburg teacher supply closet is located in the old library, now the city's events office. The supplies are aimed at teachers at Pi Beta Phi, Gatlinburg-Pittman and Pittman Center schools.
Shoppers will not pay state or local sales tax on select clothing with a price of $100 or less per item, school and art supplies with a price of $100 or less per item, and computers with a price of $1,500 or less.
Exempted items include:
· Clothing: Shirts, dresses, pants, coats, gloves and mittens, hats and caps, hosiery, neckties, belts, sneakers, shoes, uniforms — both athletic and non-athletic, and scarves.
· School supplies: Binders, book bags, calculators, tape, chalk, crayons, erasers, folders, glue, pens, pencils, lunch boxes, notebooks, paper, rulers and scissors.
· Art supplies: Clay and glazes, acrylic, tempera and oil paints, paintbrushes for artwork, sketch and drawing pads, and watercolors.
· Computers: Laptop computers, desktop computers, tablets, central processing units (CPUs), along with various other components including monitor, keyboard, mouse, cables to connect components, and pre-loaded software.