Education

Going school supply shopping? Here’s how to get the best deals

Before kids get back on schedule and on the school bus, parents need to equip and outfit them for the new school year, which for most students in South Mississippi starts the first week of August.

Kelly McMillan of Vancleave was shopping Edgewater Mall on Friday with her son, Garrison, who is going into 6th grade. She spent $250 on her two kids still in school and announced, “I think we’re done.”

Others will wait until the last weekend in July to shop and save 7 percent on clothing and shoes during the state’s Sales Tax Holiday. The event begins early that Friday morning at 12:01 and ends at midnight Saturday.

On those two days the 7 percent Mississippi sales tax is not charged on clothing and shoes that each cost $100 or less. So parents who spend $500 buying shoes, uniforms, jeans and tops for their kids will save $35. With the sales being offered at many stores, those savings will help cover basics like underwear and socks.

“It’s a basic time of the year for all age groups,” said Norma Myles, manager of JC Penney. People drive over from Louisiana and Alabama for the tax-free weekend and shop on their vacation, she said.

In addition to the first day of the Sales Tax weekend, JC Penney will be celebrating Black Friday in July with sales store-wide, some of the staff wearing Christmas sweaters and extended hours in the store and at Edgewater Mall on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“Uniforms are going to be the biggest thing,” Myles said. Besides the polo shirts that are required in public schools, she said, are pretty white blouses for girls who attend one of the Catholic schools in the area.

Michelle Berry of St. Martin was shopping for her two boys at JC Penney on Friday and was delighted with the sales. She found Nike shoes for her son Kaleb Berry, going into 4th grade, for $47.99 and saved even on her purchases with a 15 percent off coupon.

Berry doesn’t wait for the sales tax holiday. “I don’t generally do it because it’s so crowded,” she said.

While the sales tax abatement is designed to give parents a break on the expense of back-to-school, everybody saves 7 percent on the clothing and shoes they buy for $100 or less each.

“Stores will be running sales on top of the sales tax holiday,” said Terry Powell, general manager of Edgewater Mall, who compares the turnout to the weekends before Christmas.

Rhonda Roberts, director of marketing and business development at Gulfport Premium Outlets, said parents often find something they like for themselves while shopping for the kids. In addition to the store sales, coupons are available online and at guest services at the outlets. The 7 percent sales tax holiday is just another incentive — “the once a year savings jackpot” — according to the center’s website. The center will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. both days.

Uniforms and more

Vanity Fair Outlet will give an extra 7 percent discount on uniforms that weekend on top of the 7 percent sales tax abatement, said Priscilla Horton, assistant manager. School uniforms and book bags are the big sellers, she said. They are displayed in the middle of the store, where she said parents grab four or five of one item at a time to get the kids through the week. Sizes come in toddler to junior plus and tops and pants are on sale at $6.50 each, she said.

It’s all about the jeans for students who don’t have to wear uniforms. For girls, “The dark wash is more popular,” she said, paired with “cold shoulder” sleeves with a cut-out.

“Guys like the lighter wash,” she said. “They want comfort,” and for them are Extreme Motion jeans that have plenty of stretch and breezy plaid shirts.

Girls browse the store and try on the peasant-style tops with Victorian floral prints. “A lot of the guys go for what’s on the mannequin,” she said. “That’s how they shop.”

At Rack Room Shoes at Gulfport Premium Outlets, Converse and Adidas are the most popular brands this year, said sales associate Mary Perry. The girls shoes come in sherbet colors while the boys are wearing shades of black and white.

“The school systems are allowing an all-white or all black shoes so we requested them,” Perry said.

Zoey Wolfe of Chalmette, Louisiana, was trying on white sneakers. “I like them because they’re just shiny and pretty,” she said, admiring the sparkly trim.

“It’s the one piece of their uniform they get to choose,” explains her mom, Erika Wolfe. She has four children and spent $500 between them on uniforms and school supplies — before they picked out their new shoes.

During the Sales Tax Holiday, Rack Room Shoes customers who spend $75, get $10 off, said manager Kenesha Love.

That will help pay for the long lists of supplies the schools ask each student to provide. For a fourth grader in the Jackson County School District, the minimum cost of the four dozen pencils, the notebooks, tissues and paper towels comes to more than $40 per student. Other schools also ask for scissors, erasers, glue sticks, bottles of hand sanitizer and more pencils. Some request better brands of crayons, pencils and zipper bags, and charge a fee for art and computer supplies.

“He’s got to have a flash drive this year,” along with ear buds, said Berry, whose son Konner is going into eighth grade at St. Martin

Walmart has classroom lists by school available at their stores and online.

To help foster children who can’t afford these expenses, Gulfport Premium Outlets has partnered with the local R.O.C.K. Foundation (Resilience of Coast Kids of Mississippi). From July 28 to Aug. 13, shoppers can donate school supplies, backpacks and new socks and underwear of all sizes at the mall office in the center’s food court.

School start dates

Aug. 3

  • Bay-Waveland
  • Jackson County (East Central, St. Martin, Vancleave)

Aug. 4

  • Biloxi
  • Hancock County
  • Long Beach
  • Moss Point
  • Ocean Springs
  • Pascagoula-Gautier
  • Pass Christian

Aug. 7

  • Gulfport, sixth-graders

Aug. 8

  • Gulfport (other than sixth-graders, who start Aug. 7)
  • Harrison County

School supply list*

Item

Quantity

Price range

Cost

Wide-ruled notebook paper

2 packs

$2.50

$5.00

Highlighters

1 pack

$3.24

$3.24

Red pens

2 packs

$1.17

$2.34

Pencils

4 dozen

1.84-$3.94

$7.36

Crayons

24 count

$2.47

$2.47

Tissues

3 boxes

$.98-$1.98

$3.92

Paper towels

1 roll

$.50-$1.98

$0.50

Clorox wipes

1 pack

$2.48

$2.48

Zip-loc bags

1 quart size

$2.84

$2.84

Pencil bags with binder holes

1 bag

$.97-$4.94

$0.97

Pocket folder with prongs

1 folder

$.50-$2.76

$0.50

3-ring binder or zip binder

1 binder

$3.46-$19.97

$3.46

Plastic dividers with pockets

1 pack

$3.48

$3.48

Composition notebook

2 notebooks

$.50-$1.97

$1.00

Ear buds

1 set

$1-$39.84

$1.00

Index cards

2 packs

$.48-$1.99

$0.96

Total minimum cost

$41.52

Optional: art box for crayons, scissors pack of copy paper, cap erasers

Art class: Crayola colored pencils, 1 roll paper towels

* List of school supplies requested for 4th grade in Jackson County schools.

Prices are from discount store in Jackson County

Sales Tax Holiday

Starts 12:01 a.m. Friday, July 28

Ends at midnight Saturday, July 29

7 percent sales tax not charged on clothing and shoes that each cost $100 or less

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