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Midcoast retailers sees higher sales in September

By Stephen Betts | Nov 23, 2020

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic struck Maine, Midcoast retailers saw higher sales compared to the same month a year earlier when September revenues were tabulated.

The Maine Bureau of Revenue Services released, during the past week, retail sale figures for economic market areas and statewide.

Overall retail sales for the region that includes all of Knox County and the adjacent Waldo County towns of Lincolnville and Islesboro totaled $67.5 million in September. This was an increase of 5% ($3.1 million) from September 2019.

Most categories of businesses reported increased sales. Restaurants and lodging businesses, however, continued to see their revenues lower than a year ago. Restaurants and lodging businesses have been the hardest hit by the pandemic and related restrictions.

Building supply sales jumped 19%, reaching $13.6 million. The Midcoast has seen a construction boom with many homes being renovated with increased sales.

Motor vehicle sales skyrocketed 28%, jumping to $13 million.

Food stores reported sales increase 6%, reaching $8.2 million. Most food is exempt from the state's sales tax and not included in the state figures.

General merchandise sales, those generally in department stores, rose 6%, reaching $9.6 million.

A miscellaneous category of businesses — such as gift shops, antiques stores, jewelers, pharmacies and sporting goods — saw sales increase 7%, reaching $8 million.

Restaurants in the Midcoast reported sales down 20% from a year ago, falling to $8.9 million.

Lodging businesses saw sales drop 18%, falling to $6.1 million.

The increased retail sales in September ends five consecutive months of lower sales compared to 2019. Sales in August were down 11%, down 11% in July, 9% down in June, 12% in May and 8% down in April.

Retail sales statewide also increased in September compared to a year earlier — up 13%, reaching $2.37 billion.

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