- Kenton Tsoodle
Independent shops continue to grow in OKC
Oklahoma City has worked to create a business climate that is highly supportive of small businesses. Our small businesses employ about half of Oklahoma’s private workforce, and they were also some of the hardest hit during the pandemic.
The Independent Shopkeepers Association recently published the 2022 Shop Census, a study of independent shops in Oklahoma, with interesting findings. The goal of the report is to better understand small business challenges, needs and contributions to our economy and advocate for a healthy climate for the independent small business industry.
While Oklahoma shop keepers reported pandemic-related challenges with volatile sales since 2020, supply chain crises and staff shortages, many reported that the pandemic led them to make positive changes such as establishing a stronger online presence, quickly changing products and services and diversifying revenue streams.
Those positive changes are seen in several data points. The number of independent shops in Oklahoma continued to grow from 2020-2022, with most new shops opening in larger cities. Foot traffic has increased, bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels and outpacing foot traffic at national chains. Oklahoma City’s retail sales growth between 2020 and 2021 of just over 20% also outperforms the national average of 14%. Moderate growth seems to be continuing, and small business owners report being optimistic about the continued sales growth in the near future.
Interestingly, the size of the retail spaces is shrinking, especially in metro areas, due to several factors such as rent increases, fewer workers and smaller or more flexible product inventories. The smaller spaces and high sales helped independent shops in Oklahoma increase their sales per square foot by 30% between 2020 and 2021.
Another bright spot is our holiday shopping habits. Customers in Oklahoma tend to turn to local shops more during the holiday season for unique gifts and a more customer-focused shopping experience. Oklahoma small business respondents reported making 33% of their annual sales during the holiday season, compared to the national average of 19-25%. When Oklahoma customers were asked what influences their purchases the most, 30% answered “locally sourced.”
I encourage you to support all types of small businesses this holiday season. From clothing stores, soap and candle makers and gift shops to bakeries, restaurants, coffee houses, spas and art studios, Oklahoma City has so many ways to find unique products and experiences.