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Tips for small merchants

(Published July 30, 2001)

Store managers, owners and civic leaders throughout the District anticipate an increased amount of retail business during the city’s first-ever Sales Tax Holiday Aug. 3-12.

However, handling the masses of back-to-school shoppers and ringing up tax-free purchases efficiently was an aspect of the tax holiday city officials did not think about very carefully, said Richard Hayman, owner of Hayman Business Systems in Laurel, Md., which sells and services cash registers for many local businesses.

"Adjusting cash registers to ring up taxable and non-taxable items is not as easy as it seems," he said.

While larger businesses such as CVS and Ames have the luxury of downloading a program into cash registers from their corporate offices, smaller businesses with less sophisticated cash registers could face more difficulty adjusting for tax-free purchases, Hayman said.

"The equipment used to reprogram cash registers is expensive and time consuming," he said. "Everyone just doesn’t have the capability. The tax-free holiday looked good on paper, but I don’t think they thought the thing through."

Hayman offered some possible suggestions for small businesses in handling tax-free purchases:

Hayman added that even though the Sales Tax Holiday is a great "public relations stunt," he hopes retail businesses in the District bring in customers.

"I do not know if the tax-free holiday will bring in more customers or not," he said. "Merchants will just have to grin and bear it."—Chris Smith

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator