Rupert Howell editorial

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 31, 2009

Sales tax holiday stirs little interest, promotion needed

Not much hoopla surrounding Mississippi’s first tax-free back-to-school weekend.

This is an event passed by the Mississippi Legislature where certain items of clothing, school supplies and some other items priced under $100 are exempt from the state’s 7 percent sales tax for a couple of days.

The idea is to give families a bit of a financial break and to somewhat stimulate the state’s economy.

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The only downside I can see by allowing this tax holiday is for the state and its municipalities which depend on sales tax as a part of their overall revenue.

But where is the hoopla? Passage of this means that every store that sells clothing or school supplies is virtually offering a seven percent discount on items  purchased Friday or Saturday, July 31 and August 1.

The only stores advertising the holiday in this newspaper and Burkes and the Home Store in Southaven that doesn’t even qualify. They’re just using the opportunity as a promotion.

Seven percent may not seem much but to a family with four children, it could add up.

Due to a recent shortage of available sales personnel, this newspaper is guilty of not promoting the attempt to help families and stimulate the economy as we should have. Without an active retail merchants association there aren’t a lot of community-wide promotions other than traditional holidays.

Most chain stores hire outside marketing agencies with someone making their media buys who don’t know the area. They depend on surveys, audits and number crunching devices to make decisions about their stores with more of a “one size fits all” mentality

It was that type of mentality that first turned down Batesville as a site for a Tractor Supply Store. Community leaders actively hounded that company until someone was willing to take a chance and locate a store here. That store would soon lead the district in sales.

But it wasn’t just because the store was in Batesville that it succeeded. It was also because the manager came in and learned the community, marketed his merchandise, volunteered and gave back to the community in which he had taken a gamble.

So often we see chain stores whose managers are only concerned with bottom line figures. That’s what matters to their bosses and in the end, that’s what matters to all in business.

The difference is how you choose to get there. Simply opening the doors every day doesn’t work. It may pay the bills but it won’t insure that you can open the doors next week.

In order for businesses to keep afloat and prosper, there must be not only a willingness of the owner or manager to make the right decisions, but a concerted effort among other like businesses for the community to prosper together.

If you think of downtown Como, you think of restaurants and good food. While those neighboring establishments may compete for many of the same customers , they virtually benefit by the collective atmosphere that each help provide.

People want to do business where people are doing business. We want them to do business in Panola County.