School supplies at Staples in Harbison. Karamie Sullivan photos.

Thousands of Midlands parents will be taking their children out in a few days to stock up on supplies and clothes for the upcoming school year. Tax-free weekend is Friday through Sunday. Many families utilize the 72-hour period to buy their school items at an overall lower cost by paying no sales tax. Stores that experience an influx of crowds this weekend are gearing up to welcome their shoppers.

General Manager of Staples on Devine Street, Jen Hallenbeck, said this is their busiest time of year. “It’s actually like our Christmas,” she said. “Back to school is our biggest event,” Hallenbeck said they see a variety of customers including teachers, kids, and parents.

Staples is offering many deals related to the weekend, according to Hallenbeck. “Up until Saturday, you get 20 percent off school supplies if you purchase a backpack with us. We have 50 cent pencils, glue, crayons, and composition notebooks.” She also added that T9 calculators are currently at their lowest price of the season. Even though the store can get hectic (but not crazy, she noted), Hallenbeck said it’s an enjoyable time. “I think it’s the most exciting time of the year. We start setting up for back-to-school in June,” she said. “We kinda have fun with the customers.” With only three registers at her store, Hallenbeck said they have to be as friendly and as fast as they can.

Similarly, Store Manager Julie Baumgardner of Belk in Sandhills said they experience a busy back-to-school crowd. “It is all hands on deck, we put more staff into the store,” she said. Belk does not hold specific sales for the tax-free crowds, but they do not increase any of their prices to make up for the lack of sales tax. “We have a sale where prices may be a different percentage here and there, but they might even be better than the weekend before,” she said. Baumgardner has worked for Belk for 11 years and seemed to reflect the same excitement for the crowd. “We’re looking forward to the back-to-school shopping,” she said.

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