Penny-pinching shoppers and the back-to-school crowds began their descent onto Grayson County’s retailers and businesses on Friday, hoping to take full advantage of the state’s annual tax-free weekend.


Under the parameters of the tax-free weekend, which ends at midnight on Sunday, all clothing, footwear and school supplies with a price tag of $100 or less are omitted from the usual 8.25 percent sales tax rate. And while only certain items are eligible for the tax exemption, many retailers still offer sales and deals to get customers in their doors. The tax-free designation extends not only to items sold in stores, but to qualified goods sold online, over the phone and even by mail.


“I think it’s a great tool to drive the state’s economy and help folks out,” Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said.


As someone who keeps a regular eye on the county’s finances and economy, Magers said Grayson County is a regional hub of shopping year-round, but especially so when the tax-free weekend rolls around.


“We’re the retail center of the area and the tax-free weekend is simply going to give sales a boost up,” Magers said. “We get a lot of folks from Oklahoma that come down to shop in Grayson County this time of year.”


De’Lesia McFarland, lead sales associate at the JC Penney in Sherman, said her branch of the national retailer did all it could to prepare for the rush of shoppers, who began pouring in first thing Friday morning and are in the market for everything from make-up and jewelry to clothing and backpacks.


“It’s pretty crazy around here,” McFarland said Friday. “We had to get all of our signage out and we’ve made tons of copies of papers for all of our sales.”


McFarland said the Sherman JC Penney has brought on an additional 30-40 staff members to help with not only the tax-free weekend, but for the larger and busy back-to-school season. She added that the tax-free weekend is historically a big money making opportunity for the retailer, but the exact number of dollars brought in fluctuates from year to year and won’t become clear until the stampede of shoppers clears out.


“It’s a great amount,” McFarland said of the typical tax-free haul. “But, we never really know until it’s all said and done with.”


The sales associate said shoppers have, so far, been pretty savvy this year and many had already scoped out the items they wanted ahead of time and then returned to the store to make their discounted purchases.


“Be prepared,” McFarland said. “Know what you want to get and try to get out because the lines are long. We move as fast as we can, but you will be waiting. So, make sure you’ve had something to eat and drink. And with all those people lining up and coming in and out of the store, just know that it can can get hot.”


Local businesses are also feeling the heat of the tax-free weekend, but Glitzy Girls Boutique Store Manager Jessica Crump said her clothing store was able to keep its cool and save customers some cold hard cash by planning well ahead of the annual financial holiday.


“We’ve been prepping for the last six months,” Crump said. “We’ve been visiting with our vendors and working to get really good deals on merchandise so we can offer it for the best price to our customers.”


Crump said denim clothing and blue jeans have flown off the boutique’s shelves during the tax-free weekend and the store has assembled a standalone team to fulfill orders placed online. But with many shoppers still showing up in person to make their purchases, Crump said retail employees everywhere, no matter how tired, should remember that they themselves were once likely members of the tax-free crowds.


“Just keep breathing,” Crump said. “Sometimes you have to put aside your feelings of being overwhelmed and just know that you’re going to help somebody out and feel awesome about going back to school. That’s really what is most important.”


Teresa Englett braved the crowds at Walmart and Target in Sherman on Saturday to complete her back-to-school shopping.


“We got some items for free at the back-to-school bash in Bells this morning,” she said. “Other than that, we have to get everything else that my son needs. It has been pretty busy around here. Target was packed as well.”