Gwen DeGroff stood in a school supply aisle of the Walmart in Westminster on a Wednesday in August, parsing through different folders. In her cart, in addition to a number of school supplies, was her 18-month-old daughter, Genna.
DeGroff said she was shopping for her two sons, who are going into second and fourth grades at Friendship Valley Elementary School next month.
It’s easier to get this shopping done when the boys aren’t here, she said, smiling, adding that everyone in her house is ready for school to pick back up. While DeGroff was picking up school supplies on Wednesday, Aug. 8, she said she’ll head back out and hit the stores to get the boys new clothes for the year the following week, once Maryland Tax-Free Week kicks in Sunday, Aug. 12.
“I went through their closets this morning,” she added.
DeGroff said ever since having kids, she’s taken advantage of Tax-Free Week. Her plan is to head to Target, Walmart and Kohl’s, she added.
The average family with children K-12 will spend an average of $684.79 each on back-to-school shopping this year, a figure slightly down from last year’s $687.72, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. Money will be spent primarily on electronics, shoes, clothes and supplies, according to the survey.
Shoppers plan to spend the most on clothing, coming in at $236.90, according to the survey. They also plan to spend $187.10 on electronics such as computers, calculators or phones; $138.66 on shoes; and $122.13 on supplies such as notebooks, pencils, backpacks and lunchboxes.
In Carroll County, to outfit an eighth-grader at West Middle School, it would cost at minimum an estimated $35 in basic supplies if shopping at Target in Westminster.
Back-to-school supply costs
The Times picked a random school supply list -- from an eighth-grade class at West Middle School -- then went shopping at Target in Westminster to see how much it would cost.
Pencil pouch: $2.99
No. 2 pencils: $2.19
25 pack cap erasers: 50 cents
Blue, black and red pens: $2.97
Colored pencils and sharpener: $3.49
Multi-colored highlighters: $1.59
Loose leaf paper: 99 cents
Four 3-ring binders: $7.56
Four packs of 5-tab binder dividers: $1.96
Four one-subject notebooks: $3.96
Sticky notes: 99 cents
Glue stick: 50 cents
Flash drive: $4.99
Note: School supply list of eighth-grade “Team Epic” at West Middle School; costs based on prices at Target store in Westminster as of Aug. 9.
Maryland Tax-Free Week is starting Sunday, Aug. 12 and runs through Saturday, Aug. 18 this year. Qualifying apparel and footwear of $100 or less, per item, are exempt from the state’s 6 percent sales tax, according to the Comptroller’s Office. Since 2017, the first $40 of a backpack or bookbag purchase is also tax-free. Accessory items are not included.
“We have really taken it as an ability to promote small businesses particularly, and to encourage folks to take advantage of the tax savings,” said Alan Brody, press secretary for the Comptroller’s Office.
Brody also said while the state loses an estimated $7 million in tax revenue during this week each year, it’s an overall benefit for businesses.
“What we see in return is increased foot traffic in stores,” he said.
In addition to Tax-Free Week, there is a scholarship competition where college students in the state can win up to a $2,500 scholarship for first place by taking a Maryland-themed photo or video while shopping and post it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #shopMDtaxfree.
Cailey Locklair Tolle, president of the Maryland Retailers Association, said the week is very important to retailers, especially in the summer months.
It really encourages people to shop in brick and mortar stores, she said, and support local retailers who pay taxes.
“It’s a nice little bump for the retail industry,” she said.
TownMall of Westminster will also be hosting a few special events to celebrate Tax Free Shopping week in Maryland, including a Cut-a-Thon from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, where boys can receive a free haircut and girls a free bang trim from the Westminster Barbershop in exchange for a school supply item donated to The Shepherd’s Staff. The mall is also having a drawing to win backpacks filled with school supplies and gift cards through Sept. 4. Visit www.townmallofwestminster.com for more information on these and other promotions.