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Despite skeptics, many savers savor state tax holiday

Allison Cartwright, accompanied by 3-year-old Jonathan Cartwright, made an electronics purchase in South Bay Center in Boston during the state sales tax holiday weekend.

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Allison Cartwright, accompanied by 3-year-old Jonathan Cartwright, made an electronics purchase in South Bay Center in Boston during the state sales tax holiday weekend.

Matt Jackling has a new home he needs to furnish. Between the weekend’s sales tax holiday and in-store deals, he saved a cool grand on appliances and furniture at one store before heading to another on Sunday morning to buy a bed.

“We recently bought a house, so we’ve been waiting to buy a lot of other things for it,” Jackling, 32, of Salem, said as he entered Jordan’s Furniture in Reading. “We were shopping all weekend and bought other stuff, too.”

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For many shoppers like Jackling, the two-day sales tax holiday was an opportunity to buy big-ticket items they have had an eye on, while knowing that the sting at the register would be lessened just a little.

“I decided to get out and buy some things I’ve wanted for a while. I bought a new iPad and accessories for it,” said Allison Cartwright, 50, of Dorchester. “I had been thinking about it for a couple of months and was wavering back and forth. Since they are having the tax-free holiday, I figured it was time to go get it.”

The temporary exemption from the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax excluded restaurant meals, cars, motorboats, tobacco, and any item that cost more than $2,500. The state has held a sales tax holiday weekend annually since 2004, with the exception of 2009.

The tax-free weekend also motivated shoppers on fixed incomes who were looking to save as much as they could.

“The sales tax holiday pushed us to buy, and we saved about $700 over two days of shopping,” said Barbara Trainor, 65, of Saugus. “When you’re retired and on a fixed income, you want to save as much as you can. I think we should do it all the time.”

For other shoppers, the tax holiday did not necessarily drive them into the store, but provided welcomed added savings at the register.

“It really ended up working out because I get paid weekly and needed a new TV, so why not?,” said Claudia Andrade, 27, of Dorchester. “I saved $60 or $70, so it did help out. That will go toward my monthly bus pass.”

Despite the savings, some shoppers remained skeptical about the impact of the sales tax holiday.

“I think it’s a joke,” said Dennis Dougherty, 71, of Amesbury. “I don’t think it does anything.”

For retailers, however, the benefits are clear when customers are lured back into brick-and-mortar stores instead of ordering online or driving to New Hampshire, which has no sales tax. And this year proved profitable, said Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

“[This year’s] sales tax holiday surpassed all others as consumers have become more confident, and as they look for a reason to invest their dollars locally,’ ” he said Sunday night. “We certainly beat 2011 and total economic benefit exceeded half a billion dollars.’”

Hurst has said the tax-free weekend can be a shot in the arm for spending and economic growth, especially in August as parents prepare to send children back to school.

“The sales tax holiday helps all of our members, but for those which cater to back-to-school, it kicks off the season earlier and stronger,” he told the Globe earlier this month.

For Trainor, the sales tax holiday held a stroke of serendipity with one of her purchases.

“I woke up this morning and my TV died, so rather than get it fixed I said well this is the last day for the sales tax break, might as well buy a new one,” Trainor said.

“So I bought a 60-inch Samsung plasma TV with all the bells and whistles.”

Colin A. Young can be reached at colin.young@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ColinAYoung.
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