When stores in Oklahoma begin holiday sales promotions on Thursday evening, it will be mark the beginning of the first Christmas shopping season that state retailers will be able to legally sell items for below cost since the 1940s.
The Unfair Sales Act, an Oklahoma law that had been on the books since 1949, had required retailers to sell items for at least 6 percent more than they paid for it. The law was intended to protect small retailers from larger competitors, who could use below-cost pricing to drive the smaller shops out of business.
In 2011, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued an opinion stating that Black Friday sales could violate the law.
Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a bill that allows state retailers to sell most general merchandise at any price for up to 15 days in a row, up to 10 times a year, effectively legalizing many Black Friday sales promotions in the state for the first time in 64 years. Groceries, medications, gasoline and lumber are subject to the law as before.
Harry Seley, who owns Harry's TV, Video and Appliances at 11110 N Pennsylvania Ave. in Oklahoma City, said he isn't really worried that large retailers will steal sales from his family-owned business by selling items below cost now that the state law has changed.
“If the (chain stores) came in with the idea that they would sell items below cost all the time, then that would be a thing to be concerned about,” Seley said. “But really it's maybe one or two specialty items that will go on sale at a time as a loss leader for them — they run their business differently than we run ours.”