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Stores in downtown Pittsfield are offering their own 'tax-free weekend' after the state declined to.

Pittsfield Retailers Holding Own Tax-Free Weekend Promotion

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Bart Raser says on the tax-free holiday, he does five times the amount of business than a regular weekend. He orders extra inventory and orders winter items like snowblowers early in anticipation.
But a few weeks ago the state Legislature nixed what's become an annual event. The state revenues are lagging and lawmakers opted not to hold one this year, leaving Raser staring at a loss of sales and stores filled with items.
"We had decided at Carr Hardware to do one anyway," Raser said on Tuesday.
So Carr Hardware is knocking 6.25 percent off nearly the entire inventory. Raser got talking with Paul Rich of Paul Rich and Sons, who said he was planning to offer a similar sale, knocking off 6 to 10 percent. The concept blossomed and soon more and more retailers and Downtown Pittsfield Inc. jumped on board. 
"If all of us together have a little bit of a revolution, it can be impactful," Raser said. 
Nearly a dozen stores in downtown Pittsfield will be offering some discounts on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 13 and 14. With the help of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., the weekend is being cross-promoted and signs will let shoppers know where to go. The hope is to offset some of the anticipated sales losses from the lack of a tax-free holiday.
"We really help to push the marketing while they do some marketing of their own. But it is to show that there is something bigger going on than just one place having a sale. It is offering a customer more than just a one-stop shopping trip," DPI Executive Director Kristine Hurley said. 
She added, "Every business is handling the promotion in their own way but really this weekend, tax-free weekend, for several years when the state was sponsoring it, was a huge driver of foot traffic into the stores. The minute they learned that the state decided to cancel it, I got the phone call saying 'we need to get organized around this and find out how to make this work for our customers' ... People are looking forward to this. They are waiting to make those big purchases until tax-free weekend."
Raser agrees that the weekend has been a driver of big-ticket sales with customers waiting to make such purchases when they wouldn't have to pay the state's 6.25 percent sales tax. 
"Typically that's what people use the weekend for, to buy the big-ticket items."
The state Legislature has authorized a tax-free weekend in all but one of the past 11 years. State officials estimate some $25 million to $26 million in tax revenue is lost during those two days each year.
Rick Stohr, owner of RJ Stohr Diamonds and Fine Jewelry is knocking 50 percent of all in-stock jewelry — except watches — as well as paying the 6.25 percent sales tax. The sale is the same he's put on in previous years that weekend and he hopes to generate the traffic he's seen on the tax-free weekend in the past.
"When the state said they weren't going to do it, we were disappointed ... It was one of our bigger weekends," Stohr said, saying it is the biggest sale he offers all year.
He added, "it is good for the customer. There aren't many times you can walk store to store and get this many deals."
Hurley said the attitude of all the North Street businesses is that they want to support each other. And efforts like this weekend's sales help all businesses.
"The businesses really do look out for one another. They genuinely feel that if they are successful, they want their fellow businesses to be successful too. If they have a fellow business that is not successful, then they are not successful either," he said.
The businesses do know that the promotion isn't a replacement for the tax-free weekend and will be continuing to advocate for the state to offer it next year. 
"I'm hoping that by driving extra attention to it, people will come out and it will be impactful and that the state will restore it next year," Raser said. 
The other businesses participating include Steven Valenti Clothing, Deidre's Special Day, Westside Clock Shop, Museum Facsimiles, Aerus Electrolux, Mad Max, Black and Blush Lingerie and Dory & Ginger. For more information on the sales, click here.
"There is something about the masses getting out there and you don't want to miss out," Hurley said.

Tags: North Street,   sales tax,   

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Tyer Says State Spending Plans Holds Good News for Pittsfield

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayor Linda Tyer gave a positive budget update during her regular address Friday on Pittsfield Community Television.
Tyer said with the state passing a three-month budget, the city finally has some solid state numbers for local and education aid — and its good news.
"With those two funding sources being restored, we are in a much better financial position then we anticipated we would be in when the City Council approved the budget in June," she said. 
The school and city passed operating budgets in June based on level or reduced amounts of state aid and administrators are still prepared for this funding to come in lower. 
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