Photo Gallery | Pittsfield retailers offer sales in place of tax holiday
PITTSFIELD — Several Berkshire businesses have found a way to counter the state's decision to cancel this month's annual tax-free weekend.
They've decided to hold their own version.
Nine small retailers who belong to Downtown Pittsfield Inc. have banded together to offer discounts this Saturday and Sunday, according to the group's executive director, Kristine Hurley.
At least one national retailer, Tractor Supply, which has stores in North Adams and Pittsfield, is offering similar price cuts at all 16 of its Massachusetts outlets this weekend, according to Jeff Stiles, the Pittsfield store's manager.
Some businesses in South County may also be offering discounts, said Betsy Andrus, the executive director of the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce in Great Barrington.
"I think some businesses are offering a little bit of a discount on some items," Andrus said. "It's nothing huge. They haven't joined forces. It's just a small smattering of businesses."
Carolyn Edwards, the general manager of the Lee Premium Outlets, said the 60-shop outlet mall is not offering any specific discounts related to the cancellation of the state's tax-free weekend. But stores like Michael Kors and Coach, which sell accessories, are offering discounts on merchandise throughout the month because the outlet stores always do a lot of business in August.
"Back to school [makes August] our biggest month," Edwards said. "We get more business this month than on Valentine's Day or Father's Day."
This year's annual tax-free weekend, which gives consumers a break from the state's 6.25 percent sales tax on certain items, was canceled by lawmakers last month after tax collections fell short of fiscal 2016 projections. It had been scheduled to take place Aug. 20-21.
This is the first year since 2009 that tax-free weekend has not taken place in Massachusetts. In Pittsfield, DPI members decided to band together and seek a solution to the issue, because the no tax-free weekend brings a lot of foot traffic to their businesses.
As of Monday, the DPI participants included Carr Hardware; Deidre's Special Day; Dory & Ginger; Electrolux; Mad Macs; Museum Facsimilies; Paul Rich & Sons Home Furnishings; R.J. Stohr Jewelry; and Westside Clock Shop, according to Hurley. DPI has 208 members, so it's possible that more could join by this weekend, Hurley said.
All of the participating businesses are located on either North Street or South Street. But Carr also has outlets in Great Barrington, Lee and North Adams, while Mad Macs has another store in Williamstown.
Hurley said each business is offering its own kind of discount. For example, Paul Rich is offering three tiers of discounts based on an item's price, while West Side Clock Shop is offering a 10 percent discount on all clocks that are currently in stock.
More information on specific discounts can be found at downtownpittsfield.com.
"Each business has their own particulars or situations, so not everybody could offer the same things," said Tom Rich, who owns Paul Rich & Sons Home Furnishings. "But I do feel that everybody is doing something so the retail customer has every bit of an advantage buying at this time as they do during the tax break."
"Some offers are equivalent to a tax break, or some sort of percentage other than paying taxes," Hurley said. "They want to offer something special to customers so if they were making plans to make a big purchase they can still do that."
Signs to point way
A nonprofit that has been the principal advocate for downtown Pittsfield since 1983, DPI will be providing signage to let consumers know which businesses are participating.
"Our role in things like this is really kind of outreach to get people on the same page," Hurley said. "It was really the stores who came to us."
DPI's tax break weekend is being held this weekend instead of next weekend because the middle of August is usually when the state's annual tax-free promotion takes place.
"It's always been sometime from the 13th to the 16th," Rich said. "We're sticking with the way we've done it the last 10 or 15 years."
Tractor Supply is offering a 6.25 percent reduction on everything in the store, including non-taxable items like clothing, gun cases, wood pellets and animal feed, Stiles said.
"We've done it every year in the past and when we heard that it wasn't going to happen, we were kind of upset," he said. "The company is still going to go ahead and honor it, which is great."
Nancy Battaini, who co-owns West Side Clock Shop on North Street with her husband, said her store's discounts are intended to bring more customers into the store.
"I think it will be nice because tax-free weekend always brings a lot of people downtown," Battaini said.
A 10 percent reduction on all existing store merchandise is a lot for a small business to handle, but Battaini said Westside Clock Shop can deal with it.
"It's not too bad," she said. "We're only open on Saturday."
Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at 413 496-6224.