Ohio's sales-tax-free weekend begins Friday, and Akron-area retailers are preparing for Black Friday-size crowds.
Cash registers will be ringing like school bells this weekend as back-to-school shoppers are expected in store to take advantage of tax-free shopping.
The tax break begins Friday and runs through Sunday on a wide range of school supplies and clothing — and even shoes.
It was the calm before the storm Thursday at OfficeMax on North Cleveland-Massillon Road in the Montrose shopping district.
Manager John Mascioli has been with the retailer some 14 years, and this is one of his favorite times of the year.
And it's not just because the pencils, paper and crayons will be flying off the shelves.
"It's a busy weekend," he said. "But it is also a lot of fun. I enjoy watching the kids shop because they are in charge of picking the supplies they want."
Tucked just inside of the store's entrance is a handy rack that offers a supply list for most Akron-area schools.
The store even has boxes for $14 that contain most of the common required back-to-school items.
Mascioli said each year the store adopts a school and collects supplies donated by customers for teachers and students. This year's school at the Montrose store is Akron's Firestone High School.
The store will be fully staffed over the three days, Mascioli said, and is ready to "rock and roll."
"We are actually busier than on Black Friday," he said. "And the shoppers are in a better mood."
Qualifying school supplies must be priced $20 or less.
These items include: binders; book bags; calculators; cellophane tape; blackboard chalk; compasses; composition books; crayons; erasers; folders (expandable, pocket, plastic, and manila); glue, paste, and paste sticks; highlighters; index cards; index card boxes; legal pads; lunch boxes; markers; notebooks; paper; loose leaf ruled notebook paper, copy paper, graph paper, tracing paper, manila paper, colored paper, poster board, and construction paper; pencil boxes and other school supply boxes; pencil sharpeners; pencils; pens; protractors; rulers; scissors and writing tablets.
It will seem like Black Friday at nearby JCPenney, too.
Manager Debbie Young said all the registers will be open, and there will even be a mobile option to speed up checkouts.
Pretty much everything inside the store qualifies for the tax break, from clothing to shoes, as long it is priced $75 or less.
"You can buy $500 worth of stuff tax-free as long as each item is $75 or less," Young said.
A particularly popular area of the large store is the school uniform section, as many area schools have adopted dress codes.
"We will have our uniform section go from being full to completely empty in just three days," she said.
But don't despair if supplies are gone; shoppers can order online or in a kiosk inside of the store and still be able to get the tax break as long as they place their order and pay for the items within the three-day window.
The clothing tax break is not limited to just kids clothes and shoes, but applies to those items for women and men, too.
"We cater to every person in the house," Young said.
There are some exceptions, including clothing accessories and equipment from briefcases to cosmetics to wigs.
Protective clothing items including breathing masks to hard hats to protective gloves are excluded along with sports-related equipment like cleated athletic shoes.
And you won't be able to get a tax break if you want to make your own clothes, so this includes sewing equipment and fabric.
The state defines qualifying "clothing” as "human wearing apparel" suitable for daily attire.
This includes: shirts; blouses; sweaters; pants; shorts; skirts; dresses; uniforms (athletic and nonathletic); shoes and shoe laces; insoles for shoes; sneakers; sandals; boots; overshoes; slippers; steel-toed shoes; underwear; socks and stockings; hosiery; pantyhose; footlets; coats and jackets; rainwear; gloves and mittens for general use; hats and caps; ear muffs; belts and suspenders; neckties; scarves; aprons (household and shop); lab coats; athletic supporters; bathing suits and caps; beach capes and coats; costumes (but not single masks); baby receiving blankets; diapers, children and adult, including disposable diapers; rubber pants; garters and garter belts; girdles; formal wear and wedding apparel.
Aside from the school uniforms, Young said, so-called jogger pants for boys, distressed jeans and bootie shoes are particularly popular this year.
"We will be ready," she said. "It will be all hands on deck."
Craig Webb, who once wore colorful Mork from Ork suspenders to school, can be reached at email@example.com.