The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 13, 2011

Turning the corner

Bounce in static retail economy may come soon

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — Selling a city to national retailers sometimes is a slow process, but retail consultant Rickey Hayes said he is seeing movement.

“It’s starting to loosen up,” he said. “The financing is better with the economy at least stable and moving up. Most of the corporate and commercial realtors are saying we’re not completely out of the box, but not at the bottom.”

The progress is two-fold: Many national realtors are deciding they may as well open a few new stores, which creates motivation to beat the market back, he said.

There still is under-priced commercial real estate that may not last as conditions improve. Hayes said big stores are starting to be active. Wal-Mart is not doing much in Oklahoma but is active in Texas, primarily in the Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio areas.

“Oklahoma’s economy fared better than other states, but it is still static,” Hayes said. “Any movement is more than we’ve seen in the last two years.”

Specifically, Hayes said, soft goods retailers and restaurant corporations are looking at Enid. He expects to announce new restaurants in the third quarter of the year. Discussions are ongoing now.

Commercial retailers are dealing with Hayes and J. Herzog & Sons, which owns Oakwood Mall.

Hayes said has had meetings with City Manager Eric Benson and Enid’s city commission regarding some big box stores wanting to downsize space. They are waiting on deals, but conditions still are a little slow, he said.

“Marketing Enid to national retail people is a tenacious and lengthy process and we are in the middle of it. We’re ahead of where we thought we would be, there is still a lot of distressed commercial real estate, and we still may not have seen the end of foreclosures, but we’ve turned the corner,” he said.

Hayes said he hopes to see construction this year. It normally is a 36-month process from the time a community is broadcast and national retailers start to answer, he said. The recession has slowed the process, he said, but Enid is enjoying a retail move toward mircopolitan economies. Political instability in Tulsa almost stopped development there, he said.

Marketing Enid is key. While the city has not grown as fast as suburbs like Owasso, Yukon, Jenks and Glenpool, positive growth has been achieved. Throughout the last 10 years Enid’s city limit has grown 1.78 percent, and it is projected from 2010 to 2015 it will grow another 1 to 1.5 percent. Positive, though not dynamic, growth that national retailers gravitate toward, Hayes said.

Still, growth is positive and Enid’s income factor — more than the $45,000 to $50,000 average household income retailers prefer — is promising. More than 40 percent of Enid’s trade area has income at or above $50,000.

Hayes said Enid is missing out on retail business to the tune of $30 million a year in soft goods and clothing, $51 million groceries and $22 million in electronics. Indications are the market will be strong in those areas and may grow faster than the population. He attributes that to Vance Air Force Base and its economic impact on Enid.

“Those are key issues we broadcast to national retailers,” Hayes said. “The main scope of work is to keep pressure on those national guys to put Enid at the top of the list. If they are considering putting stores in Oklahoma, they need to think of Enid first.”