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Final 2020 retail sales show stark disparity between businesses

Rockland area fared better than Camden
By Stephen Betts | Feb 21, 2021
Photo by: Stephen Betts Downtown Rockland during the summer of 2019.

Lodging businesses in the region experienced a 35% drop in income during 2020 while restaurant sales were down 30%.

But building supply stores, and auto dealers reported sales up sharply during the pandemic-dominated 2020.

The Maine Bureau of Revenue Services released retail sales for December and the total 2020 sales both by regions and statewide.

December 2020 retail sales for the region were up from December 2019 but they were unable to offset declines for much of the past year. The state figures also show a disparity between the Rockland area market and the Camden area market.

Overall retail sales for the Rockland market (defined by the state as all of Knox County except Camden, Rockport, Hope and Appleton) during 2020 totaled $458.3 million. This was an increase of $17.3 million (4%) from 2019.

This means 2020 was a record setting amount of retail sales for the Rockland market despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall retail sales for the Camden market (Camden, Rockport, Hope, Appleton, Lincolnville and Islesboro) totaled $152.5 million. This was a decrease of 14% from the record high set for the Camden area in 2019.

Combined the two markets had sales of $611 million in 2020, down about 1% from 2019.

Building supply businesses in the two markets combined jumped 16% from $93 million in 2019 to nearly $109 million in 2020.

Home construction and renovations were on a hot pace during 2020.

Motor vehicle dealers recorded an 11% jump in the two combined markets from 2019 to 2020. Sales jumped from $119 million to $132 million.

A miscellaneous group of businesses that includes gift shops, antiques stores, jewelers, sporting good shops and pharmacies reported sales up 10%, from $63 million to $69 million in the two markets combined from 2019 to 2020.

Grocery stores saw sales increase 4% from $82 million to $85 million.

General merchandise stores — mostly department stores — saw sales decline by 3% from 2019 to 2020 in two markets combined. Sales sent from $99 million to $96 million.

The hardest hit industry from the pandemic and restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the virus was the lodging industry. Lodging sales for the Rockland and Camden markets combined plummeted 35% from $47.7 million to $31 million.

Restaurants experienced a 30% drop — from $95.8 million in 2019 to $67.1 million in 2020.

Statewide retail sales increased about 4% from 2019 to 2020, reaching $23.6 billion.

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