Waterford - Christa Desjardins and her family's shopping bags made a pile that was hard to miss Monday afternoon outside Justice, a girls' clothing store at the Crystal Mall.
The day's purchases, many from Old Navy and JCPenney, were evidence that Desjardins and her three children - ages 13, 10 and 7 - were taking advantage of the state's tax-free shopping week.
Purchases on footwear and clothes under $300 will be tax-exempt through Saturday, meaning shoppers can avoid paying the state's 6.35 percent sales tax.
"This is the first year I'm taking advantage of it," said Desjardins, of Killingworth, who was also shopping with family visiting from Arizona. "This year it just worked out that we could."
Desjardins appeared to be one of many patrons who visited the Crystal Mall on Sunday and Monday. Mother-daughter tandems roamed through stores, teenage girls set out in search of the fall's hot new items and military members in uniform joined in the shopping frenzy.
Crystal Mall General Manager Karen Tarantino said the mall encouraged its retailers to partner the tax free week with promotions and sales. The mall also plans to hold a sidewalk sale - "Back at It" - Saturday in which retailers will set up tables or clothing racks directly outside stores. A fashion show, face painting and a balloon artist are also in the mall's plans for the event.
Tarantino said there's no question the tax free week results in a significant increase in mall shoppers. She said it's become something that many people look forward to.
"Some people may wait for it," Tarantino said. "I think consumers are aware. They know to look for it."
Rebecca Phelps said she took advantage of a free haircut for two of her boys, Zane, 7, and Zion, 3, at JCPenney and later picked up some jeans from Old Navy on Monday. She was aware of the tax free week and thought other shoppers were, too.
Across the street Monday at the DSW in Waterford Commons, workers reminded shoppers upon their arrivals that the tax free promotion was going on, said Rebecca Killian, the store manager.
She said the shoe store, which bills itself as a destination for designer shoes at great prices, has seen an uptick in sales. But because the store does not carry children shoes, Killian said it was mainly adults who were taking advantage of the break on the sales tax.
"It's the mommies and daddies and people without kids who are taking advantage of the tax free (week)," she said. "Most everybody seems to be aware it's tax free. The word must have gotten around."
The items not included in the tax free shopping week are sports equipment, specialty clothing, jewelry and accessories. The state said it expects to lose $7.5 million by dropping the tax for one week.