Oklahoma’s economy has remained fairly steady over the past year, according to Ron Edgmon, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Grocers Association.
The state treasury report for August showed gross sales tax receipts up 5.1 percent over the last 12 months, although oil and gas production taxes have declined by 7.2 percent, he said. “Regional economic trends indicate cautious optimism.”
The state has a “strong, established” grocery industry and its grocers are resilient.
“They have always had to adapt quickly, from weather to policy changes, technology to pandemics. Grocers are opening new stores and continuing to renovate existing locations to better serve their communities,” Edgmon said.
Oklahoma grocers continue to face post-COVID-19 pandemic challenges such as labor shortages, although Edgmon said they made some progress in 2022. At that time, a bill was passed in the state legislature allowing those 16 and older to check out and complete transactions involving alcohol. There is still a long way to go, however.
“The need for help at stores does not discriminate between rural and urban areas, as they all continue to notice staffing shortages,” he said.
According to Edgmon, inflation is cooling in some areas of the state but “not across the board.” He noted the cost of transportation and energy remains high.
“We are coming out of one of the hottest summers we have had in over a decade – there were many record-breaking days, so electric costs were also high,” he said.
On the issue of retail theft, Edgmon said it is a significant concern for grocers in the state. A new task force, created by SB 674, will be studying the issue. The legislation let the Oklahoma Grocers Association appoint one grocer to the task force.
“We had hoped to see stronger penalties for crime but fell short on getting legislation to the finish line this year. We look forward to getting it to the governor’s desk next year,” Edgmon said.
OGA remains in constant communication with its members, with its staff available to field questions.
“Advocacy is important to help strengthen and modernize our industry,” Edgmon said. “This is why we have had such success at our Grocers Day at the Capitol the last several years.”
OGA is constantly evaluating “how to better bridge gaps and create more value” and is working to continually build relationships with new state agencies while maintaining and furthering its partnerships, he added.
The regular session of the state legislature wrapped up in May, but Gov. Kevin Stitt called for a special session, which began Oct. 3. Its purpose is to “demand tax fairness for all Oklahomans, deliver a tax cut to Oklahoma taxpayers and increase transparency in the state budget process,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.
Edgmon said OGA will be back at work at the Capitol throughout the session.
The OGA held its 33rd annual Oklahoma Grocers Education Foundation golf tournament Oct. 10. The OGEF provides scholarships and promotes education throughout the food industry in the state.
Edgmon said OGA also is working on a new trade show, which will launch in 2024 during its annual convention. The inaugural Oklahoma Food and Beverage Expo is set for June 4 in Oklahoma City.
“After much strategic planning and feedback, we found that revamping our experience of this show could help better meet the needs of our retailers,” he said. “OFBE is a selling show, which will allow grocers and convenience store owners to place orders with vendors on the floor, while enjoying the savings from day-of-show specials being offered.”
Read more market profiles from The Shelby Report.