Crowds grow at stores for tax-free weekend back-to-school shopping

HOUSTON – Many stores this weekend were crowded with hundreds of people who showed up hoping to take advantage of the tax-free holiday just before the start of school.

"I'm getting colored pencils, glue. Anything I can find," said one mother who wanted to do her shopping at Walmart.

"Back-to-school shopping, trying to get it all done in one fell swoop," said shopper Shawn Savarino.

Savarino was one of many who crowded Academy Sports & Outdoors in Southwest Houston to get her three children their back-to-school items.

"Shoes, shoes and more shoes!" Savarino said.

On this tax holiday, the Texas Comptroller's office said most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced below $100 are tax-free.

"It's a really, really busy time for us," said Trey Pevoteaux, one of Academy's store managers.

"It's kind of been a little crazy, but you save so you just kind of have to make your way to do that," said shopper Jennifer Vargas.

Is the rush worth it? The National Retailer Federation says school parents will spend an average of $684 on school supplies. Shopping this weekend would likely save them around $56. It all adds up. The Texas Comptroller's office said shoppers are estimated to save more than $90 million in state and local taxes.

"It just gives us an opportunity to save money when we are forced to spend money," Savarino said.

However, you must check if the items you want are actually exempt. Some popular items do not include jewelry, handbags, computer bags, specialty athletic items, luggage and more.

Lists of apparel and school supplies that may be purchased tax-free can be found at TexasTaxHoliday.org

Many shopping centers across Houston are adjusting their hours for the tax-free weekend. 

The Galleria:

Friday, Aug. 10: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.  

Saturday, Aug. 11: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 12: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

And to avoid the rush?

"Start early. Start early, that's the key," Vargas said.