PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Stores save savvy PR for tax-free sales

NEW YORK: Thanks to the public's inherent desire to stick it to the IRS, several retailers have been able to turn the "tax-free" sales popping up across the US into a valuable PR opportunity.

NEW YORK: Thanks to the public's inherent desire to stick it to the IRS, several retailers have been able to turn the "tax-free" sales popping up across the US into a valuable PR opportunity.

A New Mexico sporting-goods shop captured the sentiment well when a spokesperson told USA Today, "People love the illusion that they're pulling one over on Uncle Sam." By adopting the tax-free concept, despite the fact that the sales often don't even save consumers much more than the standard 10%-off back-to-school offering, outlets are viewed by consumers as being "on their side." Not to mention the media hits, which have inevitably highlighted participating stores, and, in turn, increased their visibility on consumers' very crowded radar screens. In St. Louis, unrelated store owners worked together to draw the crowds by promoting the taxless op. When Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) conducted a book signing at Left Bank Books, Joseph Schall, who owns nearby Joseph's Fine Jewelers, passed out tax-free sales cards to shoppers who brought in signed copies of Clinton's memoir. Meanwhile, Marty Kaplan, owner of Marty's Baking, supported the cause by having one of his employees watch people's dogs so that they could enter the no-pets-allowed book signing. At the Crossroads Mall in Oklahoma City, 75 out of the 120 merchants adopted an ultra anti-tax stance by offering a tax-and-a-half sale, by which extra savings were offered on top of removing the sales tax. The tax-free sale concept was born in 1997, when New York instituted a week-long tax holiday on certain items. The marketing strategy was abandoned earlier this year, before making a comeback for the seven-day period from August 26 through Labor Day. Stores in Texas, South Carolina, Iowa, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Vermont, New Mexico, and Connecticut all joined the fun. To the stores that chose to participate in tax-free week, for recognizing the benefit of looking like a follower sometimes, we award you with the PR Play of the Week.

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