This year, “Black Friday” shoppers will be able to enjoy the benefit of Senate Bill 550, which allows Oklahoma retailers to sell general merchandise products at any price below their cost up to 15 days in a row on a specific product, up to 10 times a year.
The bill, by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin during the 2013 legislative session. It will take effect on Nov. 1, making this the first time since World War II that Oklahomans will be able to truly take advantage of “Black Friday.”
“It’s unfortunately rare that we get to put money back in the pockets of Oklahomans, but that is what this new law does,” Holt said. “It means Oklahomans will enjoy the same low prices as consumers in 48 other states, and their hard-earned dollars will go farther this Christmas.”
Under existing state law, retailers were not allowed to offer the same sale prices as in other states.
Phil Hartoon, owner of Hartoon Jewelers located in Tecumseh, said he has not discussed “Black Friday” with his employees yet but the store usually has some sort of half price sale or other discounts during the holidays. He said he thinks retailers should be able to set their prices where they want without restrictions, especially during big sales.
“I have to support that law,” he said.
Kent Ellwanger, owner of Ell’s Jewelry located in Shawnee, said he hasn’t read through the new law yet so he doesn’t want to say whether he agrees with it or not, however, his first impression would be that he’s against it.
He said because of the time period a retailer can set their prices where they want, it would be easy for one retailer to take advantage of the system and take business away from everyone else during that time and then jack their prices back up when the time runs out.
As far as big sale days though, Ellwanger said, “It might make it a more even playing field.”
Under the old law, which was originally passed in 1941, retailers were generally required to sell products for at least six percent more than they paid for it, at all times on all products. It is believed that only two states, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, had such restrictive laws.
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The new law confused a lot of local retailers because they were unaware of the changes being made. Many storeowners said they will have to reevaluate their “Black Friday” specials after hearing of the changes in law because they were unaware Oklahoma wasn’t already under the same laws as other states.
Some storeowners and employees said they may have been unknowingly breaking the law during some sale times but said they are glad now the law has been adjudged to allow them to make their own decisions on pricing of sale items.
Nancy Keith, Shawnee Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said she thinks Senate Bill 550 is great.
“It is becoming more and more important to keep our shopping dollars at home in order to keep growing and improving our community,” she said. “Pro-active legislation such as this levels the playing field and not only helps our business community, but also the pocketbooks of our residents.”
Groceries, drugs, gas, and lumber will still be subject to the law as before, but the pricing of all other products will fall under the provisions of SB 550.
“The old law put Oklahoma stores at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states where retailers can legally offer better deals. Some Oklahomans left the state to shop, but that was a hardship for them as well as our local retailers. It also meant tax dollars that would have funded schools, roads and public safety went out of state,” Holt said.
“Now Oklahomans can stay here during major sales like ‘Black Friday’ and take advantage of the same low prices that other Americans enjoy.”