Mickey Williams, 50, proudly held up his receipt for a $189.99 HP laptop: No sales tax, and a $60 discount to boot. Williams had waited for the sales tax-free weekend to purchase the computer at Best Buy as a gift for his 9-year-old granddaughter.
“Money’s tight,” he said Saturday afternoon outside the store in Dorchester’s South Bay shopping center. “Everybody’s struggling to make it. Anything you can save is a plus.”
The annual sales tax-free weekend was back, offering consumers a reprieve from the 6.25 percent tax on goods and driving up demand at retailers during a time of high inflation.
The tax exemption applies to most retail items bought for personal use at prices under $2,500, though some goods, such as meals and gas, are excluded from the holiday. Other items that are not eligible include cars, boats, electricity, alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco.
Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said he was pleased to see crowds at a few malls on the North Shore as he drove by Saturday morning, especially in front of furniture stores, hardware stores, and jewelers.
“A lot of wedding bands are sold this weekend, believe it or not,” he said.
The sales tax-free weekend is a “half-a-billion dollar” event in the state, he said, comparable to shopping weekends in early December. For many stores, he said, it could be the third biggest sales weekend of the year, even sometimes eclipsing Black Friday.
“I think it’s going to be a very good weekend at a very iffy time,” he said.
Hurst said consumers especially stand to benefit this year after last year’s supply chain issues resulted in limited inventories, leaving consumers with less choice. This year, he said the main challenge is inflation, making the weekend a welcome opportunity for discounts.
The sales tax holiday was lucky timing for Stephen Capozzoli, 61, whose toilet broke. He said he might have let it leak “forever and ever” had his wife not told him that he should take advantage of the sales tax-free weekend to replace it.
“I told her, ‘That’s perfect,’” he said. He now has a replacement from Lowe’s in Pembroke.
“It certainly doesn’t mean I’m going to install it today,” he added.
Bob Meader, 76, also found the holiday to be well-timed. His grill “kicked the bucket” recently, and he and his wife picked out the model they wanted at the same Lowe’s a week before the sales tax-free weekend.
Meader completed the purchase Saturday morning, and by Saturday night, he was grilling two hamburgers behind his condo in Hanover.
“As soon as I eat these hamburgers, I’ll be nice and happy,” he said.
Outside the Target at the Dorchester shopping plaza, Kareen Wilkinson, 40, said a discount never hurts.
She brought her 4-year-old daughter to purchase children’s clothes, and while she knew about the sales tax-free weekend, she said it hadn’t factored into her decision to shop.
“It’s definitely a good thing, and I can see the benefit for larger purchases,” she said. “It helps everyone a little bit.”
Jack Flemming, 67, walking out of the Home Depot at the shopping center, said he didn’t know about the sales tax-free weekend but was pleased to discover it. He spent about $450 on crown moulding for a home-improvement project with his ceiling, and he estimated that he saved about $30.
“I feel better,” he said. “I pay enough in taxes as it is.”
Angel Castillo, 22, also had his day improved with his discount. He recently lost his job, and he found out about the sales tax holiday when he purchased a speaker at the Best Buy.
The discount felt like a sign.
“If you’re kind to others, you’re going to get kind things back,” he said.
Mike Monahan, 59, went to Home Depot to purchase concrete mix, which he plans to use for a deck off the back of his house in South Boston. He said he knew about the sales tax holiday but hadn’t timed his purchase around it.
He said he would have preferred to pay the tax and had the money go toward infrastructure in the state.
“Manholes are blowing up, trains are catching on fire, the MBTA is shutting down lines for a month,” he said as he loaded bags of the concrete mix into the back of his Jeep. “If there’s any time we needed the money, it’s now.”
Craig Walker of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Kate Selig was a Globe intern in 2022. Follow her on Twitter @kate_selig.