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February retail sales set record before COVID-19 outbreak

By Stephen Betts | May 11, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts

Midcoast merchants enjoyed the best first two months of a year on record before COVID-19's arrival and the mid-March string of closures imposed to slow the spread of the new virus.

Retail sales for the combined Rockland and Camden markets recorded a booming $35.7 million in sales during February, according to the Maine Bureau of Revenue Services. This was a record for the month and 11.6% more than February 2019.

January was also a record setting month for local retailers.

The Rockland and Camden markets combined include all of Knox County as well as the adjacent Waldo County towns of Lincolnville and Islesboro.

Every category of businesses had record sales, according to the state figures. Motor vehicle sales topped the rest with $8.7 million during February, up from $6.9 million a year earlier.

Building supply sales reached a February record of $6.3 million, up from $5.9 million in February 2019.

General merchandise sales, those mainly in department stores, totaled nearly $6.2 million, up from less than $6 million a year earlier.

Sales in food stores totaled nearly $5.3 million, up from less than $5.2 million in February 2019. Most food is exempt from the state's sales tax and not included in the figures.

Restaurants reported sales of nearly $4.8 million in February, up from $4.3 million a year earlier.

Sales in a miscellaneous group of stores such as antiques stores, gift shops, jewelers, sporting goods, and pharmacies totaled nearly $3.3 million in February, up from $2.7 million in February 2019.

Lodging businesses reported sales of nearly $1.2 million, up from less than $1.1 million a year ago.

Statewide, retail sales soared 13% in February compared to a year earlier.

The March retail sales should be available in about a month. Those are likely to show a dramatic decrease because of the widespread COVID-19 closures that began the third week of the month.

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