OKRetail News

Expert preaches hope, innovation to Oklahoma retailers

No one is likely to make much money in 2020, said Bob Phibbs, a national motivational speaker known as the “Retail Doctor.” Retailers will spend the rest of the year earning trust from their customers through safe, positive interactions that dismiss the gloom-and-doom mentality that has hijacked the nation.

But this is not the time to fret, Phibbs told members of the Oklahoma Retail Merchants Association during a webinar on Thursday.

“Hope and fear can’t occupy the same space at the same time,” he said. “Pick one and invite it to stay.”

Through a presentation titled “How to Survive the Current Crisis and be Ready for Coming Opportunity,” Phibbs said retailers can’t afford to wallow in the past. They must be ready to work for the future, and that’s not going to be easy because customers aren’t likely to be streaming back into their stores.

There’s an active market out there, and some consumers are going on “revenge buying” sprees for products that will make them feel better, but things are not going to be the way they were before this all started in early March.

“You are going to have to sell your way out of this,” said Phibbs, who has spent a quarter-century advocating for brick-and-mortar retailers under siege by online competitors.

He compared the COVID-19 crisis to the airline industry after 9/11, when passengers were reluctant to return to flying. Carriers had to focus on positive traveling experiences as the first wave of passengers ventured back to airports. They had to start earning trust again, then let those people tell their friends and colleagues. It was a gradual process, but passengers eventually came back to the industry that had been changed forever.

Similarly, the retail industry is not likely to be the same, post-coronavirus, he said. However, there are opportunities to earn trust and create hope through service and by changing the way of doing business.

Businesses should strive to be the gold standard of cleanliness by going the extra mile, taking measures to protect the health of customers and employees and to demonstrate they are taking this seriously.

He said they should rearrange showrooms to show better compliance with health and safety guidelines and use storefront windows to reflect hope and optimism.

“The worst thing you can do is unlock your doors and look the same as you did on March 9, when this whole thing started,” Phibbs said.

He encouraged retailers to use time wisely while business is slow, focusing on improvements such as employee training and sprucing up old websites.

Online retail and social media were growing prior to the virus, and they’re likely to be even bigger post-virus, so websites and social media are more important than ever for retailers.

Businesses that don’t have a website should build them, and if they’re not on social media, they should get social, he said.

Social media can be complicated, and every platform has its pros and cons. Phibbs suggested picking just one platform and mastering it.

Remember that for shoppers, it’s not about the money right now, Phibbs said.

“Don’t have a coronavirus sale. That’s not going to do it,” he says. “Stay away from doom and gloom.”

Instead, businesses should engage with customers and look for opportunities to serve them now, and the opportunities to sell will come later.

Consider publishing a newsletter, or create short videos with helpful information customers can use. A greenhouse might offer tips for starting a garden just as spring planting season arrives. Or, a carpet store might provide ways to clean common stains, which could be helpful to mothers contending with increased traffic from children.

Retailers can navigate these challenges successfully if they’re optimistic and if they’re willing to adapt and innovate, Phibbs said.

“Right now, we’re in the biggest storm we’ve ever faced,” he said. “When we get through it, it won’t be the same, but it could be better.”

Kiley Raper, chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Retail Merchants Association, said Thursday’s webinar drew a positive response from about 80 members who joined the call.

“I know a lot of retailers have been lost and confused like the rest of us in this process, but if there is anything Oklahomans know a lot about, it’s hope,” Raper said. “Hope fuels our fighting spirit. It’s what gets us through tough times. All of our communities have overcome those challenges before.”

Raper said most of the association’s members are having a very poor second quarter, but there is no reason they can’t sell their way back to at least a good break-even year.

“We expect Oklahomans will take advantage of the real mental health benefits of shopping in the next quarter and through the rest of the year,” she said.

“Now is the time for us to look to the future. Now is the time to have hope and spread it like an Oklahoma wildfire,” she said.


COVID-19 Update

4/1/2020 

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will provide cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. If employers maintain their payroll, the loans will be forgiven, which will help workers remain employed, as well as help affected small businesses and our economy regain stability quicker after the crisis. PPP has many helpful features, such as forgiveness of up to 8 weeks of payroll based on employee retention and salary levels, no SBA fees, and at least six months of deferral with maximum deferrals of up to a year. Small businesses and other eligible entities will be eligible to apply if they were harmed by COVID-19 between February 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020. This program will be retroactive to February 15, 2020, in order to help bring workers who may have already been laid off back to work. Loans are available through June 30, 2020.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


QUESTION: What types of businesses and entities are eligible for a PPP loan?

ANSWER:

  • Businesses and entities must have been in operation on February 15, 2020.

  • Small business concerns, as well as any business concern, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, a 501(c)(19) veterans organization, or Tribal business concern described in section 31(b)(2)(C) that has fewer than 500 employees, or the applicable size standard in number of employees for the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industry as provided by SBA, if higher.

  • Individuals who operate a sole proprietorship or as an independent contractor and eligible self-employed individuals.

  • Any business concern that employs not more than 500 employees per physical location of the business concern and that is assigned a NAICS code beginning with 72, for which the affiliation rules are waived.

  • Affiliation rules are also waived for any business concern operating as a franchise that is assigned a franchise identifier code by the Administration, and company that receives funding through a Small Business Investment Company.


QUESTION: What are affiliation rules?

ANSWER:    Affiliation rules become important when SBA is deciding whether a business’s affiliations preclude them from being considered “small.” Generally, affiliation exists when one business controls or has the power to control another or when a third party (or parties) controls or has the power to control both businesses. Please see this resource for more on these rules and how they can impact your business’s eligibility.


QUESTION: How is the loan size determined?

ANSWER:    Depending on your business’s situation, the loan size will be calculated in different ways (see below).

  • The maximum loan amount is $10 million.

  • If you were in business February 15, 2019 – June 30, 2019: Your maximum loan is equal to 250 percent of your average monthly payroll costs during that time period. If your business employs seasonal workers, you can opt to choose March 1, 2019 as your time period start date.

  • If you were not in business between February 15, 2019 – June 30, 2019: Your max loan is equal to 250 percent of your average monthly payroll costs between January 1, 2020 and February 29, 2020.

  • If you took/take out an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) between February 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020 and you want to refinance that loan into a PPP loan, you will be able to add the outstanding loan amount to the payroll sum.


QUESTION: When can I apply?

ANSWER:      Starting April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply for and receive loans to cover their payroll and other certain expenses through existing SBA lenders.
Starting April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply for and receive loans to cover their payroll, etc.


QUESTION: Where can I apply?

ANSWER:      You can apply through any certified SBA lender. Most FDIC insured banks are approved SBA lenders. Check with your bank first. A commercial lender will provide you with the full application. With the large volume of applications, banks are working as quickly as possible to process loans.


QUESTION: What costs are eligible for payroll?

ANSWER: Compensation (salary, wage, commission, or similar compensation, payment of cash tip or equivalent)

  • Payment for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave

  • Allowance for dismissal or separation

  • Payment required for the provisions of group health care benefits, including insurance premiums

  • Payment of any retirement benefit

  • Payment of State or local tax assessed on the compensation of employees

 

 


QUESTION: What costs are not eligible for payroll?

  • Employee/owner compensation over $100,000

  • Taxes imposed or withheld under chapters 21, 22, and 24 of the IRS code

  • Compensation of employees whose principal place of residence is outside of the U.S.

  • Qualified sick and family leave for which a credit is allowed under sections 7001 and 7003 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act


QUESTION: What will lenders be looking for? 

ANSWER:

  • In evaluating eligibility, lenders are directed to consider whether the borrower was in operation before February 15, 2020 and had employees for whom they paid salaries and payroll taxes or paid independent contractors.

  • The uncertainty of current economic conditions makes the loan request necessary to support ongoing operations.

  • The borrower will use the loan proceeds to retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage, lease, and utility payments.

  • Borrower does not have an application pending for a loan duplicative of

    the purpose and amounts applied for here.

  • From Feb. 15, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020 the borrower has not received a loan duplicative of the purpose and amount applied for here (Note: There is an opportunity to fold emergency loans made between Jan. 31, 2020 and the date this loan program became available into a new loan).

  • If you are an independent contractor, sole proprietor, or self-employed

  • individual, lenders will also be looking for certain documents such as payroll tax filings, Forms 1099-MISC, and income and expenses from sole proprietorships.

 


QUESTION: What lenders will NOT LOOK FOR?

ANSWER:     

  • That the borrower sought and was unable to obtain credit elsewhere.

  • A personal guarantee is not required for the loan.

  • No collateral is required for the loan.


QUESTION: How do I calculate my average monthly payroll costs?

ANSWER:  INCLUDED Payroll Costs - EXCLUDED Payroll Costs = PAYROLL COSTS

Included Payroll Costs:

  • Compensation (salary, wage, commission, or similar compensation, payment of cash tip or equivalent)

  • Payment for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave

  • Allowance for dismissal or separation

  • Payment required for the provisions of group health care benefits, including insurance premiums

  • Payment of any retirement benefit

  • Payment of State or local tax assessed on the compensation of employees

Excluded Payroll Costs:

  • Employee / owner compensation over $100,000

  • Taxes imposed or withheld under chapters 21, 22, and 24 of the IRS code

  • Compensation of employees whose principal place of residence is outside of the U.S.

  • Qualified sick and family leave for which a credit is allowed under sections 7001 and 7003 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

 


QUESTION: What are allowable uses of loan proceeds?

ANSWER: 

  • Payroll costs (as noted above)

  • Costs related to the continuation or group health care benefits during periods of paid sick, medical, or family leave, and insurance premiums

  • Employee salaries, commissions, or similar compensations (see exclusions above)

  • Payments of interest on any mortgage obligation (which shall not include any prepayment of or payment of principal on a mortgage obligation

  • Rent (including rent under a lease agreement)

  • Utilities

  • Interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before the covered period.


QUESTION: How is the forgiveness amount calculated?

ANSWER:     Forgiveness on a covered loan is equal to the sum of the following payroll costs incurred during the covered 8 week period compared to the previous year or time period, proportionate to maintaining employees and wages (excluding compensation over $100,000):

  • Payroll costs plus any payment of interest on any covered mortgage obligation (not including any prepayment or payment of principal on a covered mortgage obligation) plus any payment on any covered rent obligation plus any covered utility payment.


QUESTION:
How do I get forgiveness on my PPP loan?

ANSWER:   You must apply through your lender for forgiveness on your loan. In this application, you must include:

  • Documentation verifying the number of employees on payroll and pay rates, including IRS payroll tax filings and State income, payroll and unemployment insurance filings.

  • Documentation verifying payments on covered mortgage obligations, lease obligations, and utilities.

  • Certification from a representative of your business or organization that is authorized to certify that the documentation provided is true and that the amount that is being forgiven was used in accordance with the program’s guidelines for use.


QUESTION: What happens after the forgiveness period?

ANSWER:     Any loan amounts not forgiven are carried forward as an ongoing loan with a maximum term of 10 years, at a maximum interest rate of 4 percent. Principal and interest will continue to be deferred, for a total of 6 months to a year after disbursement of the loan. The clock does not start again.


QUESTION: Can I get more than one PPP loan?

ANSWER:     No, an entity is limited to one PPP loan. Each loan will be registered under a Taxpayer Identification Number at SBA to prevent ‘double dipping.’


QUESTION: What are the loan terms, interest rate, and fees?

ANSWER:   All loan terms will be the same for everyone.

  • Loan payments will be deferred for six months however, interest will continue to accrue

  • .05% fixed rate

  • The loan is due in 2 years

  • There are no prepayment penalties or fees

  • There is no collateral required

  • There is no personal guarantee requirement


QUESTION: How does the PPP loan coordinate with SBA’s existing loans?

ANSWER:     Borrowers may apply for PPP loans and other SBA financial assistance, including Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs), 7(a) loans, 504 loans, and microloans, and also receive investment capital from Small Business Investment Corporations (SBICs). However, you cannot use your PPP loan for the same purpose as your other SBA loan(s). For example, if you use your PPP to cover payroll for the 8-week covered period, you cannot use a different SBA loan product for payroll for those same costs in that period, although you could use it for payroll not during that period or for different workers.

 

QUESTION: How does the PPP loan work with the temporary Emergency Economic Injury Grants and the Small Business Debt Relief program?

ANSWER:     Emergency Economic Injury Grant and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) recipients and those who receive loan payment relief through the Small Business Debt Relief Program may apply for and take out a PPP loan as long as there is no duplication in the uses of funds. Refer to those sections for more information.
CLICK HERE to access the Small Business Administration's website on how you can apply for low-interest economic injury disaster loans. 

 

WHAT IS AN ESSENTIAL BUSINESS?

3/23/2020 - 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
405.488.0542


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.

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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.”

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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.