Petersburg Pilot -

Merchants see increased traffic on tax-free day


Many Petersburg merchants expressed mixed feelings regarding its first sales tax-free day. The tax-free day took place, in conjunction with the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce Spring Market giving merchants extra opportunities to pass savings on to the public.

Savann Guthrie owner of The Fabric Basket and Chamber of Commerce Retail Committee Chair stated the committee received no negative feedback regarding this event.

“I believe people spent money that they normally wouldn’t have,” Guthrie said. “Many merchants, including myself, had extra sales for the day that brought shoppers out that may not have come if it weren’t for the combination of events.”

Shoppers crowded the streets of downtown Petersburg looking for that special piece they had been waiting for.

“The day didn’t really impact my business a great deal,” owner of The Star Anne Lee stated. “I did have a customer that came in for a specific item, they had been waiting for that day to get it.”

Lee also stated she noticed that street traffic downtown was much heavier.

“I think this was a wonderful treat for the people of Petersburg,” Lee said.

Many positive reactions were expressed by Petersburg retailers.

“We had a great shopping day,” Lee’s Clothing Manager Cynthia Mathisen said. “We were pleasantly surprised because we didn’t quite know what to expect.”

Mathisen explained that having this tax-free day with the Spring Market gave them more advertising advantages.

“We were able to hold a sale for 10 to 20 percent off,” Mathisen said. “And the shoppers also saved the six percent sales tax.”

Rachel Welde, owner of Forget-Me-Not Floral stated the impact this tax-free day had on her business was much different from the other Main Street businesses.

“Tax-free day came at prom time for me,” Welde said. “The only true difference I saw was most of my customers didn’t pay for their items in advance, they waited until that day to come in and pay for their purchases.”

Not all businesses in the city saw changes due to the tax-free day.

“It may have brought in some business,” office manager of The Trading Union Sue Slavin said. “We have special sales all the time, but I did see some making purchases in anticipation of the future.”

Slavin voices her division on this issue, “I’m really torn on this because of the loss of revenue to the city.”

It was recently announced that the tax-free day cost the City approximately $13,000 which was much lower than the estimated $25,000 to $30,000 Petersburg City Manager Stephen Giesbrecht stated just a few days before the event.

“It was a great day,” Rexall Drug Pharmacist Cate Kowalski said. “Our business may not have been impacted like others downtown, but our sales were up.”

Kowalski also explained that the shoppers she spoke with that day were excited to have this opportunity and they were looking forward to the next one.

“This event took place before the summer season really took off,” Diamante’ owner Theresa Litsheim said. “But it did generate more sales that day.”

Litsheim continued to say that Wrangell has had these tax-free day events for a few years. Once people in the area, and out of town, get used to it happening, it will bring in more people.


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