Today, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and New York City Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Robert W. Walsh marked the start of Back-to-School shopping season by encouraging City families, as well as families in neighboring suburban counties, to do their shopping in the five boroughs of New York City, which are the only local counties where clothing and footwear under $110 can be purchased tax free. Joining Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Walsh today at the recently opened Cookie’s Department Store on Fordham Road in the Bronx were children from the Beacon Community Center at Middle School 45, and business owners from the New York City Retail Consortium.
“It used to be that New Yorkers looking for back-to-school bargains headed to Nassau, or Westchester and the surrounding areas for bargains, but we’ve turned that right around,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Unlike in the suburbs, there are no taxes on clothing and footwear under $110 in any store in New York City, yet another reason this is the best place to shop in the world. We’re here today speaking to suburbanites and City residents both, to say the best shopping in New York is right here in the City.”
According to the Retail Consortium’s estimates, the month leading up to the start of school is the second biggest sales season for retailers after Christmas and can represent as much as 20% of their total annual revenue. And this year, by using the City’s tax-free benefits to attract back-to-school consumers from outside of the City, retailers could drive those revenues even higher.
Traditionally the beginning of the school year has been preceded by a “Tax-Free Week,” but over the past year, the City and the State have taken steps to make every week a tax-free week for purchases of clothing and shoes under $110. First, in September of 2005, the State agreed to speed up the elimination of the City’s portion of the sales tax on these items. Then, beginning April of this year, the State repealed its own portion of the tax. New York City’s retail sector supports approximately 280,000 workers, according to the State’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The business owners and school children assembled with Mayor Bloomberg at the recently-opened Cookie’s Department Store, a 70,000 square-foot specialty retail business, and one of the borough’s many success stories. Since 2004, the Bronx Business Solutions Center, run by SBS, has answered over two thousand service requests for more than 1,000 Bronx businesses. And they’ve helped more than a dozen Bronx businesses secure over $8 million in new financing.
“As an agency, SBS is doing everything it can to help the City’s small businesses,” said SBS Commissioner Walsh. “Whether it is opening a Business Solutions Center, establishing a new Business Improvement District, or connecting business owners to a qualified labor market, we will continue to ensure all small businesses in the City have the support they need. Small businesses are the heart of New York City’s economy, and I encourage all New Yorker’s to support their local businesses as they prepare for the new school year.”
“I am very appreciative of the support Mayor Bloomberg has shown local businesses like mine,” said Cookie’s department store owner, Cookie Falack. “I look forward to getting all of the children ready for the first day of school.”
Joining Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Walsh and Cookie Falack were also representatives of the New York City Retail Consortium, including, Century 21 Vice President Raymond Gindi, Century 21 Chief of Human Resources Betty Cohen, Modell’s President Mitch Modell, Conway President Morris Cohen, Dr. Jay’s President Raymond Betesh, Dr. Jay’s Vice President Mark Sutton, Jimmy Jazz President Jimmy Khezrie, VIM President Joseph Joseph, Kids Town President Joe Sutton, Ideal Department Stores President Morris Kassab, Rainbow Stores President Joe Chehebar, Zodiac Stores President Michael Jemal, and French Toast President Richard Sutton.
The Fordham Road commercial corridor consists of 260 stores stretching along a thirteen-block area. The District is also home to Fordham University. The commercial corridor, one of the most popular in the City, attracts tens of thousands of shoppers daily and is the single largest retail center in the borough of the Bronx.
The children from the Beacon Community Center who stood with Mayor Bloomberg are participating in a program administered by Good Shepherd Services which offers a wide array of activities including help with homework, tutoring, recreational activities like basketball clinic, soccer, flag football, open gym, volleyball, whiffle ball, softball, stepping, dance, drama, chess and community building activities.
Mayor Bloomberg also reminded New Yorkers and families living outside of the city to take advantage of the Shop 4 Class promotion launched last week by NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism marketing organization, and the Fund for Public Schools, the non-profit organization affiliated with the New York City Department of Education.
From August 25th to September 8th when customers shop at more than 80 participating Shop 4 Class retail locations, those retailers will make a contribution to the Fund for Public Schools to improve New York City public schools and libraries. Among this year’s participants are American Girl Place, Asprey, Berkley Girl, Bond No. 9, Fish’s Eddy, Gracious Home, Lexington Jewelry & Watches, Macy’s Herald Square, Nicole Miller, Super Runners and Wempe Jewelers. Shop 4 Class will run through September 8th.
Shop 4 Class also helps spotlight New York City as the shopping capital of the World. For millions of visitors who travel to New York City each year, shopping continues to be the top attraction. In fact, visitor shopping alone accounts for nearly $2 billion that is spent directly in New York City’s retail community.