Back-to-school means big business for Alabama’s retailers. For some, it’s second only to the holidays as the busiest shopping period of the year. Many stores count on a boost in business as parents get their children stocked up on clothing, electronics, supplies and other classroom essentials. The shopping frenzy intensifies during Alabama’s back-to-school sales tax holiday weekend in early August.
“I think it just gets people really excited. For us, the sales tax holiday makes a big difference. Outside of December, that is probably our biggest weekend of the year,” said Michael Gee.
Michael, the president and co-owner of the Pants Store, says the timing of the holiday provides his stores with a one-two punch when it comes to sales.
“We plan a tent sale around the no-sales-tax weekend and clear out a lot of stuff from spring and summer. But, then again, a lot of people are already buying for fall and winter as well, taking advantage of the no sales tax. We sell a lot of stuff; it’s a great weekend for us.”
The Pants Store sells casual lifestyle clothing, shoes and accessories for men, women and children with brands as Southern Marsh, Columbia Sportswear and more. The business also sells gifts and outdoor items from brands such as Yeti.
Third Generation Retailer
Headquartered in Leeds, The Pants Store also has locations in Crestline, Trussville, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville. Michael and his brother, John, own and operate the business. They are the third generation of the Gee family to do so.
The Gees’ grandfather, Taylor Gee, started the business in 1950. Working as a pants wholesaler, he built a warehouse where he kept the pants. Before long, friends and neighbors started shopping out of his warehouse, and the wholesale operation gave way to retail. The business affectionately became known as “the Pants Store,” and the name stuck. Michael’s and John’s father, the late Morris “Mickey” Gee took over the business in the 1970s, growing the inventory to include all types of apparel for the entire family. Michael and John purchased the company in 2008 and continue to run the business together today.
“I can remember sitting there on our lunch breaks, with my grandmother and grandfather, my dad and brother. Looking back on that now, that was pretty special,” Michael recalls.
“It meant a lot to be able to work with my dad every day for a number of years. Not everyone gets to see their parents every day, and that is something I am really thankful for. And now, working with my brother every day is a really neat experience, and I’m thankful for that too. It is nice to be around family all day and to be able to rely on each other and have each other’s back.”
It’s estimated that Alabamians spent more than $1 billion on back-to-school shopping last year, or an average of $627 for families with school-aged children, $961 for those with college-aged students.
While retailers like the Pants Store benefit from back-to-school shoppers, the holiday is for everyone, not just those preparing to head back to the classroom. Anyone looking to purchase clothes, computers or school supplies can also benefit from buying during the tax-free weekend. The added foot traffic in stores from the holiday has increased Alabama’s August sales tax collections in eight of the first 10 years of the sales tax holiday.
Story and Photos by Melissa Johnson Warnke