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D.C.'s 2nd Sales Tax Holiday Starts Today

LaVonda Cox, who is on the sales management staff at Helia's, a boutique clothing store on Wisconsin Avenue NW in Georgetown, said that during the last tax holiday, the store's sales got a 25 percent bump.

Martin Stevens, manager of Bebe's Georgetown store, which sells tight jeans and bright, stylish shirts, said he has found that people who might otherwise be wishy-washy about a purchase instead are quick to pull the trigger on a sale during tax holidays.

Shoppers in Georgetown and the rest of the District gave stores a boost during the last sales tax holiday, some retailers said. (Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)

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"It gets people to buy who otherwise wouldn't," Stevens said.

For those reasons, D.C. business advocates are strongly behind the tax exemption. "Anything that encourages people to spend their dollars in the District is a great thing for the city and we support it fully," said Brian E. Boyer, a spokesman for the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.

Whether the tax holiday will draw suburbanites is unclear. In the shopping center at Old Town Manassas earlier this week, many shoppers were unaware of the tax holiday -- and when told of it said they were unlikely to take advantage.

"It's too hard to bring the kids up there anyway," said Amy Talish of Gainesville, who was shopping for clothes with her two young children. "The furthest I usually go to shop is Fair Oaks mall."

"That wouldn't get me up there," said Donna Wheeler of Woodbridge, who was shopping for novelty gifts with a friend. "I'm a power shopper, but I prefer the quaintness of small towns. And then there's the parking hassle to deal with."

"It's just not enough incentive," said Ed Herman, an electrician who lives in Pasadena, in Anne Arundel County. "I would spend more money on gas and parking than I would save with the tax breaks."

Businesses in the suburbs aren't exactly shaking in their boots. "I'm not really worried," said Joyce Bren Compton, owner of Allyssa Bryn Ltd., an upscale children's clothing shop in Manassas. "Our local customers aren't going to want to drive up there."

At Westfield Shoppingtown Montgomery, a few retailers said they were negatively affected when the District had its back-to-school tax holiday in August, but the mall's overall traffic and sales did not decrease significantly, said Nathaniel Centeno, the mall's assistant general manager. "It was so slight, we don't even consider it as a big negative impact," Centeno said.

Spokesmen for Fair Oaks Shopping Center and Tysons Corner Center each said that they have seen no impact in the malls' sales from tax holidays in the District.

And some of the increased sales D.C. retailers report may represent sales that would have occurred anyway. In Georgetown Wednesday, Kaman Kenyatta bought tennis shoes and a hat. As he left the store, a reporter asked him about the sales tax holiday.

"Oh, man, you mean there's no tax on Friday?" he asked. "I should return this and buy it then."

Staff writer Dina ElBoghdady contributed to this report.

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