As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to run its course throughout city, state, country, and the world, we continue to learn how it has impacted our economy and changed how we do business. I can not imagine that any businesses were anticipating such a cataclysmic event, so we can fairly assume everyone was on the same level playing field when the virus hit.
Prior to COVID arriving with its restrictions, our local businesses operated with an expected level of personability and candor. Simple gestures like shaking hands or hugging a friend were as common as having a favorite spot to watch the 4th of July parade. Our community definitely feels the distancing effects of respecting current guidelines, and more so because of how far away from “normal” we have come.
Even with all this uncertainty, our community remains resilient. Local businesses have demonstrated just how creative and adaptable we are. If you factor concepts like curbside service, repurposing, and simple ingenuity, it is clear our city’s businesses have no intention of giving up!
New restrictions lead to creativity
Basic COVID social distancing measures impacting businesses are as follows:
- Face coverings when inside any indoor space open to the public (effective 8/26 – 10/12)
- Numerous exceptions apply
- Failure to comply may result in criminal charges.
- Signage on businesses listing guidelines and specific adherences at that location
- Social distancing for seating and customer queues
Our local businesses are taking these restrictions seriously and activating all available creativity to survive and thrive in this new environment. In the best of times, our local businesses grow with the support and patronage of local Edmond residents and those in the surrounding area. Several challenges have been identified with accommodating these restrictions.
Restaurant seating capacity has been directly impacted. Restaurants have moved to space seating appropriately to comply with social distancing. To offset this limit on dining service, many restaurants have greatly modified take-out, drive-thru, and curbside deliveries. Companies like Postmates, Grubhub, Doordash, and UberEats have capitalized on the need to accommodate safety protocols during this pandemic while supporting our local dining industry.
Large venues that accommodate a significant number of customers have also been impacted by these restrictions. Many business plans and profit models take into account the occupancy of a space as they relate to sales. A large entertainment space that, in the past, would normally accommodate 100 people and should return an expected range of revenue. Now, those same spaces may no longer allow the same number of patrons without violating the current restrictions. Customers who come in groups are seated in a way to allow appropriate distance from other customer groups. As such, those businesses are now faced with a reality that sales must be made up somewhere else. Some have decided to wait out this storm. Nevertheless, others have adapted to hosting manageable-sized groups to remain active and open for business.
We don’t yet fully understand the financial impact of COVID on our city. However, when reviewing year-over-year sales taxes collected in Edmond, our figures trend around 7% higher than last year before restrictions were put in place. During the months of May and June, sales tax collections were down significantly but perked up in July to outpace last year by nearly $230,000. These fluctuations might be explained by a change in buying patterns from Edmond residents. This shift in buying patterns requires more time to flesh out and better understand.
Jackson Greene, owner of Midwest Land Group, saw most people go into a “holding pattern” for the first two months of COVID. Historic interest rates and a volatile stock market has caused some to reinvest in land. For the past five years, Jackson has seen a year-over-year increase in ROI of land. Add the desire for people to “get a little more space,” and land investment starts looking even more attractive! Compounding these factors, more Oklahoma residents are selling land to cover losses from other investments, or to capitalize on the ever-increasing demand. Our land market now has an interesting mix of buyers and opportunities.
Businesses adjust marketing tactics
Shannon Casey, operations manager with Frontier Medicine, saw their company launch in the middle of the COVID pandemic. They used a strong marketing program through Weedmaps and social media to reach potential patients and this has helped them continue to weather COVID restrictions. Even during COVID restrictions, Frontier Medicine has been able to continue serving patients through curbside delivery, just like that of any other restaurant. Today, curbside deliveries account for 15% of pre-orders, and the dispensary location provides appropriate room for patrons who wish to come inside. Despite restrictions, sales at the dispensary continue to trend upwards. Successfully launching a new company in the middle of COVID further demonstrates the gumption and determination of our local businesses!
Shelbee King, manager at Best of Books, highlights the innovative and proactive steps one of Edmond’s oldest bookstores has taken to adjust to the new environment. This Oklahoma stalwart already had a small online presence, but COVID caused ownership to quickly realize the need to adapt. An increased presence on social media platforms and full-service ordering were some of the first innovations. The net logical changes came through free local delivery (no minimum order) and resulted in over 25 additional orders per day during the peak of the restrictions. A good book would sure make all this seem a little less awful! Once restrictions and logistics allowed for Best of Books to reopen its doors to an in-person experience, online orders dropped a little, but many customers continue to use the service simply for its convenience. Now with students returning to “classroom” learning, Best of Books is working to have all local school’s reading lists available online for parents to review and make purchases. Purchases from this list are partially matched by the company to help customers buy new books for our local library.
As Edmond continues to grow, despite what COVID has disrupted, our local businesses demonstrate the devotion and resourcefulness needed to weather this storm. As Edmond citizens, we should consider supporting Edmond-owned businesses whenever possible. Keep it in the back of your mind next time you purchase anything, whether it be a service, dining experience, product, commodity, or experience.
Subscribe to Email Updates
About Zac Northcutt
Zac Northcutt, an Edmond native, received a BBA in Human Resources Management from Baylor University. After working for several years in Dallas, Zac moved his family back home to Edmond to set down roots. Through is career he has managed a wide range of projects from staffing nuclear power plants to navigating international employment law with Poland. His well-versed background has given Zac a unique perspective on a myriad of HR issues. Zac is President of UPsource PEO, a company focused on providing creative business solutions to the cannabis industry.