Top 6 Do’s and Don’ts for Tax-Free Weekend Marketing

Updated June 28, 2018

The height of summer brings all kinds of marketing opportunities, including annual sales tax holidays in various U.S. states. Many of these holidays occur in August to help parents save on back-to-school shopping while others focus on hurricane and disaster preparedness. Some states even offer ENERGY STAR® tax breaks to help residents transition to energy- and water-efficient home products. If your business operates in a participating state, there are some tax-free holiday marketing tips you should keep in mind.

States with tax-free weekends and sales tax holidays in the summer or early fall of 2018 include:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Please note: This list may vary from year to year based on changes in legislation, and each state may run its holidays on different weekends or weeks during the year. See your state’s department of revenue or taxation for complete details about participation, dates and eligible items.

Check out our tips below to help plan your marketing for the tax-free holiday in your state.

Do: Have a Sale and Offer Coupons

Consumers already save a good bit of money during a tax holiday. But you need to convince them to save money with you, rather than the competition. Cut through the noise by adding extra deals on top of the sales tax break, available only during the weekend. Strengthen loyalty with your regulars by limiting the distribution of those coupons to customers who receive your newsletter, are part of your loyalty program or are frequent and loyal shoppers.

Don’t: Be Vague About Terms & Conditions

The worst thing you can do is be unclear about how your sale works or the ways a consumer can redeem your coupons. The results will fall in two ways: either you put your foot down with the customer and leave them disgruntled (leading to bad customer reviews, etc.) or you permit the overuse of coupons and discounts (leading to offers doing more harm than good). Similarly, you want to have controls in place that prevent coupons from being abused or overdistributed. You can lean on the GS1 DataBar to individually identify coupons and track when they’ve been redeemed.

Do: Prepare Marketing in Advance—As In, Right Now

Start early with promoting your tax holiday deals. Customers are researching and deciding where to purchase much earlier. If you’re not ready by early summer, it could be too late. While most tax-free holidays occur in August, some occur near the end of July.

Make sure your website and social media pages reflect the upcoming offers and whether the hours your store is open will change. You may think this is only important for e-commerce stores but consumers are going to turn to their phones to search for answers about where they can find deals and when. If your site doesn’t have that information readily available, you may end up missing out on customers.

Do: Offer Extended Hours or Similar Promotions

We hope the reasoning here is obvious, but if it’s not, let’s take real sentiment in response to Florida cutting back the dates for its tax holiday. For many years prior, the back-to-school tax holiday only ran for three days. However, in 2015, the state ran the holiday for 10 days. When Florida shortened it back to the original three days in 2016, consumers weren’t happy about it.

Your business can’t change the days of the tax holiday, but you can go out of your way to make it as convenient and appealing to your customers as possible. Extra hours are one way to do that. Potentially extending your offers to the days before or after the holiday is another. Earn bonus points with loyal customers by offering them exclusive, early access to sales or special hours just for them.

Don’t: Fail to Prepare for Crowds

Ready your store for a tax-free weekend the same way you’d prepare for any other retail holiday. Expect a higher volume of customers. Even if you don’t extend your hours, you’re going to need extra staff to ensure customers get help when they need it and check out quickly. You’ll also need employees to keep the store in good order and shelves regularly restocked. Educate employees about what’s on sale and when so they can easily answer customer questions.

Do: Group Tax-Free Items

Grouping products together makes it easier for your customers to find them and it’s much clearer which items are not tax-free.

We recommend putting tax-free items in the front of your store. Ensure there’s plenty of signage to point the way so customers can access them quickly and easily. Other sales items can be adjacent but should be clearly differentiated by additional signage.

Prepare Your Business for Tax-Free Weekend

You can use these tips to formulate a strategy about how to plan your marketing for the tax-free holiday.

  • Remember it’s important to prepare sooner rather than later. This will not only mean you’re ready to roll out your marketing strategies at the most effective time, but also builds risk management into your strategy so you can adjust your plans if needed.
  • Some states run their tax holidays earlier than you’d expect. Both Georgia and Mississippi, for example, have tax holidays at the end of July.
  • Some states condense back-to-school, disaster preparedness and ENERGY STAR tax holidays together. Virginia, for example, has all three types of tax holidays combined to run over a single weekend.
  • Other states separate them, but their dates aren’t all that far apart. For instance, Georgia’s back-to-school tax holiday runs at the end of July, while its disaster-preparedness holiday runs the last weekend of September. Prepare for the second event while you’re still running deals for the first.
  • These tips should be used in conjunction with data you have about your customers. If you don’t see a lot of back-to-school shoppers, you can gear your marketing strategies toward disaster preparedness or green tech.
  • Contact Valpak for help with creative, affordable ways to promote the tax-free holiday in your store.

These tax-free holiday marketing tips are just a starting point. Always remember there’s never a one-size-fits-all approach to your marketing. Understand what works best for your business and your customers.