Local merchants saw the slightest of increases in retail sales during March compared to a year ago.

That 1 percent increase in retail sales, however, was better than the state as a whole, which saw a less than 1 percent drop from a year earlier, according to the latest figures released by the Maine Bureau of Revenue Services.

Overall, retail sales in the region that includes all of Knox County as well as the adjacent Waldo County towns of Lincolnville and Islesboro totaled $27.8 million, up 1 percent from $27.5 million in March 2010. The 2011 sales were also better than the $25.2 million in 2009 and the $27.7 million in 2008.

The March record was $29.2 million set in 2006.

For March 2011, motor vehicle sales in the Midcoast jumped 5 percent from a year earlier, reaching $5.9 million.

Local building supply sales dropped 2 percent in March from a year ago to $5.8 million.

Department store sales rose 2 percent to $5.2 million.

Sales of taxable items at food stores fell nearly 1 percent to less than $4 million. Most food is exempt from the state’s sales tax and is not included in the state figures.

Restaurants saw sales up 1 percent from a year ago to nearly $3.5 million.

A group of stores that includes antiques shops, jewelers, gift shops, pharmacies and sporting goods dropped 2 percent to $2.7 million.

Lodging establishments reported sales up 10 percent to $637,000.

The slight increase locally compares to the statewide decrease of less than 1 percent as Maine retail sales slipped to less than $1.1 billion.

Other regions

In Lincoln County, overall retail sales totaled $14.8 million, a decrease of 6 percent.

Motor vehicle sales totaled $5.1 million, up 2 percent.

Taxable sales at food stores rose 1 percent to $3.4 million.

Building supply sales fell 33 percent to $1.8 million.

Sales at gift shops and other miscellaneous type stores dropped by about 20 percent to $1.5 million.

Department store sales fell 7 percent to less than $1.1 million.

Restaurant sales rose 1 percent to more than $1.8 million.

Lodging sales rose about 25 percent to $182,000.

Total retail sales in other regions of Maine for March were:

* Augusta $70 million, down 2 percent.

* Bangor $111 million, down 3 percent.

* Bar Harbor $5.7 million, unchanged.

* Belfast $10.6 million, down 3 percent.

* Biddeford $53 million, down 2 percent.

* Brunswick $44 million, down 1 percent.

* Ellsworth $26 million, down 1 percent.

* Kittery $28 million, down 6 percent.

* Lewiston $68 million, unchanged.

* Portland $165 million, up 3 percent.

* Presque Isle $27 million, down 2 percent.

* Skowhegan $13 million, down 6 percent.

* Waterville $41 million, down 1 percent.