Missouri’s tax-free weekend will look pretty different this year amid the pandemic

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LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — Missouri’s tax-free weekend kicks off Friday, but back-to-school spending habits look at lot different this year.

Some districts are postponing classes and other schools are go all virtual. Stores are also taking extra precautions to keep you safe.

Tax-free weekend in Missouri is a little like Christmas for major retailers like Walmart.  

“Here, it’s especially wild since Kansas doesn’t do the tax-free weekend. We have a ton of people that come over here for that and then, just normally, with the saturation of schools we have and colleges, it gets pretty crazy,” said Bryan Harrelson, co-manager of the north Lee’s Summit Walmart.

But this year, during the pandemic, many parents are putting off school shopping, waiting to see what districts are doing.

“We’ve been now shopping at the last minute for stuff because we didn’t know if it would actually happen and just trying to do our best to buy him what we need and get him to school safely,” parent Laurie Cooper said.

Cooper’s son, Justin, is still heading to Mizzou, but many of his classes have shifted online.  So they’re upgrading to a new laptop. Both Best Buy and Walmart are seeing a huge spike in families looking for new devices, with the possibility of more virtual classes this fall.  

With record demand expected this weekend, Best Buy is taking extra precautions.

“Normally on tax free, the space behind me in the computer department would be shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow, and I just can’t do that,” said Aaron Byrd, Lee’s Summit Best Buy’s general manager.

Best Buy will limit capacity in stores and keep a line outside, so that associates can be matched one-on-one with shoppers. 

Walmart is spreading out its back-to-school supplies to help customers social distance.

“We’ve kind of had all the practice we need for it. Now it’s just kind of running the play,” Harrelson said.

While notebooks, pencils and other school supplies will still be needed, so far families are buying less of those items. But thanks to technology, they’re ending up with bigger bills. 

The National Retail Federation estimates the average family will spend close to $800 on back-to-school this year.  

And many families will choose the convenience of online shopping. You can still get the tax exemption, according to the state, but many local retailers encourage you to choose store pick-up to skip the shipping.

“If you order online, set for store pickup curbside. It’ll be contactless. Use the app to check in, and we’ll walk the stuff out there and put it right in your trunk,” Byrd said.

The tax-free weekend starts Friday and runs through Sunday. With lots of people expected to come out, stores ask for your patience as they try to keep all customers happy and safe.

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