Shoppers across Texas are expected to take advantage of steep retailer discounts and tax-free purchases this weekend as a part of the state’s sales tax-free weekend. For 21 years, the state has waived sales taxes on select items on the second weekend of August as students prepare to return to the classroom.


The list of items traditionally includes clothing, backpacks and other items that students will need when returning to their classes for the fall semester. However, with the start of the 2020 school year, some students across the state, will instead start their classes remotely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


"During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Comptroller encourages all taxpayers to continue practicing social distancing and support Texas businesses while saving money on tax-free purchases of most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks (sold for less than $100) during the annual Tax-Free weekend," the Texas State Comptroller’s Office said via its website this week.


Traditionally, the sales holiday has been a boon for retailers and shoppers alike, with increased foot traffic in stores, and heavy sales intended to entice shoppers.


"We’ve got some great hot deals, largely on apparel, footwear backpacks — anything to get kids back to school in Sherman," said Tyler Sumrall, a spokesperson for Academy Sports + Outdoors. "Of course those deals go on top of the Texas tax-free weekend."


Sumrall said he did not want to speculate, but stores are expecting traffic to be typical for a tax-free weekend, despite the ongoing pandemic.. He added that the stores will be using best practices for the pandemic this weekend, including social distancing and employees wearing masks.


"We realize that schools are not starting with as many students in the past, and we realize some students are starting online in some areas," he said. "We do know that kids will be returning to schools at some point and encourage people to come out now, so that when they go back they can have what they need at a low price."


Sherman’s smaller retailers are also making the best of the sales tax weekend, by holding promotions and other offerings to entice shoppers to enter their shops.


While the sales-tax weekend is primarily aimed at students returning to the classroom, Look A Likes Design & Fashion owner Sarah Richardson hopes to also target another group returning to the classroom — teachers and educators.


"Teachers have to go back to school as well," she said. "I would say we are mostly expecting teachers and students, but if other people reap the benefit of this, then we think it is for them as well."


Like other retailers, Richardson said Look A Likes is also offering discounts on top of the sales tax savings.


"We are offering the waived sales taxes this weekend and then we are offering a free gift with every purchase," she said.


Look A Likes first opened its doors in 2019 and while it did participate in last year’s tax-free weekend, it was still still new and had not fully gained name recognition yet. For this year’s holiday, Richardson said she hoped for larger crowds, but wasn’t sure fully what to expect.


"Honestly, we aren’t sure what to expect with COVID, but I think people are starting to feel a bit more comfortable and with school just around the corner, I think more people are ready to get back to school than normal," she said. "I think this is going to be busier than normal this year. "


For a full list of tax-exempted items, please visit the state comptroller’s website.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.