Edmond Economy: Surviving the Times

“Space Available” – it’s a sign of the times.  It’s a sign seen repeatedly at retail centers throughout town and can be considered a positive economic indicator that commercial growth continues in Edmond.   Sometimes these signs deliver a more somber message that resulted in a business closing its doors…indicating a less-than-confident attitude
towards spending.

So, we wondered, how is our community doing? Instead of making assumptions, we decided to ask the experts – our clients, neighbors and those “in the know” locally.  What we discovered was that local businesses are displaying their Oklahoma “stick-to-itiveness” by rising to the challenge and surviving simply by altering the way they do business.
We started by looking at retail sales -a key indicator of the health of the economy.  “Retail sales are holding well. There are challenges all over the state but we’re doing better than most,” says Ken Moore of the Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The economy – as it pertains to the wireless industry – seems to be pretty good,” says Travis Mills of Communication Solutions. “People’s need for mobile phones hasn’t diminished. The need for a wireless phone isn’t really a discretionary expense for most people. In fact, those who are in the worst situations and out of work – that’s one of things they most often say they have to have is a mobile phone to accept offers for employment.”

Although sales are good, Communication Solutions is returning to the basics to ensure business keeps rolling.  They  recently changed their company-wide sales techniques from commission-based  to an improved customer service focus.  “One of the things we do differently from other agents and the cell phone industry in general, is that we don’t work on commission. We focus on providing our customers with an experience we’d like to have, not the high pressure experience that selling on commission sometimes brings.”

Communications Solutions isn’t the only retailer seeing a bump in sales according to City of Edmond’s Finance Director Ross VanderHamm.  “I do believe that because general merchandise is such a critical component that the growth we’re seeing at nearly two percent is a positive indicator of Edmond’s economy.”

Glenda McKee of Hardware Concepts also holds an optimistic view of the economy. “The recession’s been slower coming to Oklahoma,” she says. “I feel like if Oklahomans could turn off the news we’d do a whole lot better. Our economy is really good.”

Although McKee’s seen some slowdown in the housing market, Hardware Concepts recently branched out in order to thrive in the changing economy.  Formerly, she exclusively served the commercial industry as a hardware wholesaler.  Now Hardware Concepts is open to the public and has attracted an entirely new group of retail customers.
Selling to individuals and not just homebuilders bolstered McKee’s business. “It’s working pretty well. It’s been a positive thing. People have come in and looked. They may only be remodeling a bathroom or kitchen but some kitchens require more hardware than we use in some spec houses,” she notes.

A large part of McKee’s business depends on the building of new homes. There’s good news there, as well. “Housing starts are up this month,” says Janet Yowell of the Edmond Economic Development Authority. “Compared to the same time last year, housing starts are down 50%. But August has been the best month this year and we’re seeing an
upward trend.”

Edmond resident Miles Hall, owner of H & H Gun Range, holds an unabashedly positive outlook about Oklahoma’s economy, noting that the state learned its lesson during the bank failures of the 1980s.

“We’re a tough state. We were a tough state even during the oil bust in the 1980s,” says Hall. “I always tell people when something bad happens, Oklahomans run to the problem to fix it or deal with it. They don’t run away from it or try to avoid it. That’s the mentality of our state. I’m really thrilled to be an Oklahoman.”

After 28 years in business, Hall is so confident in Oklahoma’s economy that he recently quadrupled his retail and range space. “We’re growing pretty quickly,” he notes. “It sounds fast, and in some respects it is…. but the truth is that it’s been a part of our long term plan from the beginning.”

Hall has succeeded by expanding while other companies are downsizing.  He worked ahead of the curve, moving into retail sales during the 1990s. Since then, he’s also expanded his range to include archery, sport shooting, defensive shooting and hunting shooting.  Hall’s efforts have resulted in 76 months of double and triple digit growth.

“Business is fluid. What works today may not work tomorrow. The important thing to do is to stay in touch with the guest or consumer. You need to understand what their wants and needs are. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses get to a point where they no longer look at their consumers the same. We call our customers guests. That’s a philosophy. Sometimes the word “customers” becomes so diluted that they just become things. They’re not people anymore,”
Hall added.

Another bright spot for Edmond is the fact the majority of our residents are employed. While the national unemployment average hovers around 9.4 percent, Edmond’s rates sits at 4.2 percent according to Yowell.  Edmondites are seeing a lot less pink slips than those in other parts of the country.

At the end of the day, Edmond’s looking good economically. Commercial and residential construction continues.  New retailers are opening shop.  Businesses are doing all they can to attract consumers.  Said Yowell, “Edmond’s doing well. It’s holding its own. People are just holding onto their money and getting smarter with their spending.” 

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