OKRetail News

COVID-19 Update

At ORMA, we are doing everything we can to provide support and help keep essential retailers in operation, but also what is necessary for you to know about how other retailers and communities are doing to keep their businesses afloat and citizens served. The Oklahoma Capitol is closed to all non-essential personnel which has changed our lobbying efforts, but the legislature is focussed mainly on essential and emergency-related legislation at this time. Our team is watching this activity carefully and will update you if we see anything concerning.

In the meantime, we have heard a lot about ways businesses are getting creative to keep revenue flowing and serve the community while some are making the choice to close. Some new initiatives we've heard retail businesses are employing:

  • Provide early "elderly only" shopping hours
  • Curbside Order Pick up
  • Offer Delivery Service
  • Selling take home craft projects or activity packets
  • Go on Twitter or Facebook Live allowing loyal shoppers a chance to peruse new products from home.
  • Providing care packages to first responders and health professionals
  • Provide free shipping or gift with purchase for online or phone orders

In case you missed it, these news clips may be of particular interest to you:

Details on the above clips are below. Journalists are seeking out opportunities to tell new stories about how people are helping others, so if you choose to implement a new business model or have a story about a helper, please share it with us immediately. We will get it to reporters asap! We need some good news, don't you!?

In closing, I share a favorite Irish blessing on this St. Patrick's day, "Health be yours, whatever you do, and may God send many blessings to you! May the sun shine, all day long, everything go right, and nothing wrong."

Kiley Raper | CEO
Oklahoma Retail Merchants Association

Pennsylvania “Essential Retail Guidance”

Yesterday, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Wolf issued additional guidance for businesses regarding “non-essential” businesses - Wolf Administration Updates Businesses on Guidance for COVID-19 Mitigation Efforts.  The governor had suggested that non-essential businesses close for 14 days.  The guidance defines both “non-essential” and “essential” businesses.

Non-essential businesses include public-facing industries such as entertainment, hospitality, and recreation facilities, including but not limited to community and recreation centers; gyms, including yoga, barre and spin facilities; hair salons and barber shops, nail salons and spas; casinos; concert venues; theaters; sporting event venues and golf courses; retail facilities, including shopping malls except for pharmacy or other health care facilities within retail operations.

Essential services and sectors include but are not limited to food processing, agriculture, industrial manufacturing, feed mills, construction, trash collection, grocery and household goods (including convenience stores), home repair/hardware and auto repair, pharmacy and other medical facilities, biomedical and healthcare, post offices and shipping outlets, insurance, banks, gas stations, laundromats, veterinary clinics and pet stores, warehousing, storage, and distribution, public transportation, and hotel and commercial lodging.

NRF has shared their own guidance on the issue which has been shared with state retail association partners.  NRF also sent a joint letter with RILA to the National Governors Association providing our recommendations regarding potential closures.  NRF members should continue to monitor NRF’s State Resources for Retailers on COVID-19 for additional updates.


OKC mayor urges private sector to act

 The Journal Record March 16, 2020
Mayor David Holt asked local businesses to make their own decisions regarding how best to respond to the crowd restrictions imposed in Oklahoma City to curb spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by Janice Francis-Smith)

Mayor David Holt asked local businesses to make their own decisions regarding how best to respond to the crowd restrictions imposed in Oklahoma City to curb spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by Janice Francis-Smith)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Public officials are asking private business owners throughout Oklahoma to make their own difficult decisions as to how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in the best interests of their businesses, their employees and the public as a whole.

Employers facing such decisions would do well to keep up to date on the progression of the pandemic and on the shifting legal landscape with regard to managing their employees, said Crowe & Dunlevy attorney Michael Bowling.

As Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt announced Sunday he would be signing a proclamation restricting groups of more than 50 people from gathering throughout the city, he noted that the emergency measure applies to the city’s public facilities and functions.

“These are today’s actions and they are not yet applicable to the private sector, but we understand that message will be received and we do call on the public to consider responding,” said Holt. “I remind you the declaration of emergency means that we potentially have the ability to regulate all gatherings if public health demands it.”

The mayor’s office worked closely with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department to determine the best action to take for the city, following closely the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that groups be restricted to 50 people or less.

Private businesses have so far been very responsive to this public health crisis, said Dr. Patrick McGough, executive director of the OCCHD.

“Most people in Oklahoma City and Oklahoma County have been forthcoming and making their own decisions and they’re doing a great job,” said McGough. “I mean honestly, they’re doing a great job at self-imposing what they need to do. For most of the businesses, everyone is doing that very successfully.”

While shopping in stores, patrons are asked to keep their distance from others. Holt asked that citizens not sit down to eat in local restaurants, but to instead order food for pickup or delivery. But the pandemic poses different problems for different types of businesses.

“There’s not really a way to get a ‘to go’ drink from a bar and we understand that, and so I think bars will have to make some decisions moving forward,” said Holt. “And we reserve the right to make them for them, if it’s in the interest of public health. We’re not doing that today, but that is certainly on the table.”

Holt said he was no expert in dictating to business owners how to best handle their operations, but he noted the wealth of information that is available from public health organizations and best practices that businesses in other cities have already begun to implement.

“For any business that’s just been sitting on this and really thinking about what’s going on in other cities, what other stores, restaurants, bars are doing, it’s time,” said Holt. “In the days ahead we’ll be doing that research as well, and we now have the authority to regulate those things if we deem it necessary for public health. But these last few days, everybody canceled their own events. Wasn’t that better? It’s better if everybody does it out of their own free will because they see the necessity.”

Some movie theaters have offered to sell only half of their available tickets to give patrons the opportunity to sit far away from each other, said McGough. Several concert venues, like the popular Tower Theatre in Midtown, have opted to just close the doors for the time being.

“We’ve seen businesses shutter temporarily because they could not provide an atmosphere where people would not be gathering in those numbers,” said Bowling.

“Employers will have to be thoughtful about remaining in business,” said Bowling. “It is costly to pay people not to be at work versus maintaining their workforce, and so considering temporary sick-leave policies will certainly be something employers will want to consider.”

If they haven’t already done so, employers will likely shift very soon from allowing employees to work from home to requiring employees to work remotely. Taking a careful assessment of what jobs can and cannot be done remotely “allows companies to feel comfortable with how they’ve made that differentiation based on the business need and business realities rather than who happened to ask first,” said Bowling.

Several concert venues such as the Tower Theatre have chosen to shut down temporarily. (Photo by Janice Francis-Smith)

Several concert venues such as the Tower Theatre have chosen to shut down temporarily.
(Photo by Janice Francis-Smith)

Businesses like restaurants, on the other hand, may not have the option to allow many employees to work from home.

“One thing all employers need to do is to be more vigilant about employees coming to work sick,” said Bowling. “Especially with hourly and low-wage workers, there can be a tension between knowing that people may live paycheck to paycheck and really do need to be at work with the desire to have them not be there if they’re sick. And I know that that’s a tension that employers face all year long, especially in the winter.”

Congress may come through with a proposal to provide tax credits to help employers provide paid leave for workers sent home due to the pandemic, he noted, but the situation changes from day to day. Employers may want to reexamine their paid-leave policies, and make sure to follow the law on how their employees are paid. Salaried employees who are providing services and responsive must be paid a day’s wage, he said.

Employers’ rights shift with the circumstances regarding how to manage employees that appear sick but do not want to go home.

“The EEOC as a general rule says that you cannot take employee temperatures because that is an impermissible medical examination, but they have given us guidance in the past related to pandemics,” said Bowling. “In areas where there is active community spread, it’s an easy answer, like today in New York, Seattle. It may be an easy answer next week in Oklahoma City and Tulsa depending on the progression of this pandemic. In areas where there is active community spread it is clear that you can take people’s temperatures when they arrive at work.”

The employer has a legal responsibility to provide a safe workplace, said Bowling.

“As we balance the desire to maintain continuity of operations and profitability, ensuring that we’re maintaining safe workplaces is important so for worksites,” said Bowling. “Where they do still feel that people need to come in to work, people can’t do their work from home or the needs of the business require people to be on-site, employers can support people by helping them implement social distancing, improving cleaning measures to reduce the possibility of the spread of the disease within the workplace, following the CDC guidelines and making sure that even if they’re going to require people to come in to work that they do everything they can to make sure it’s the safest environment possible.”



Top News Archive

For Immediate Release June 21, 2018

Oklahoma Retail Merchants Association calls Sales Tax Fairness Ruling a "Main Street Milestone"

United States Supreme Court rules states may compel online retailers to collect and remit sales tax

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Retail Merchants Association (ORMA) issued the following statement from ORMA’s Chief Executive Officer, Kiley Raper, regarding the ruling of the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in the case of Wayfair v. South Dakota. Specifically, the ruling revists the SCOTUS decision in Quill Corp. v. North absolving retailers with no physical presence from collecting state sales tax.

“Thursday's SCOTUS decision is a Main Street Milestone. It has been over 25 years since the Quill decision and much has changed in our economy since 1992. The internet is no longer in its infancy and consumers were still making more of their purchases in stores not by clicking a link on their smartphone. Regardless of where a sale occurs, a sale is a sale and sales tax should be applied to every sale made to an Oklahoma consumer. Main Street retailers that employ your neighbors, pay property tax and support the little league team and high school band should be on a level playing field with out-of-state retailers that use our roads and landfills but do not have to collect the sales tax that is used to pay for this infrastructure. It is estimated that Oklahoma loses over $250  million in sales tax each year to remote sales where sales tax is owed but not collected. These are revenues that could now be used to lower everyone’s taxes, build roads and improve schools and increase teacher pay.

“ORMA is pleased by the United States Supreme Court decision in the Wayfair case. We are eager to work with the Oklahoma State Legislature to enact state legislation that will finally put an end to this unlevel playing on our Main Streets."

ORMA President, Mike Thompson, Thompson Pools in Norman, Oklahoma, said “As a brick and mortar, Oklahoma retailer, I can tell you that my commitment is to my community, where I live and operate. I believe that the Supreme Court opened an opportunity to level the playing field for me, and other retailers like me, who have been at a disadvantage compared to internet retailers who weren’t required to collect sales tax. I look forward to what the state legislature will do with this decision.”

# # #

The Oklahoma Retail Merchants Association was founded in 2015 by retailers advocating for e-fairness legislation to save Main Street Oklahoma businesses. Since then, the organization has rallied for changes to retail business laws such as retail alcohol sales, organized retail crime, and tax reporting.