Rockland-, Camden-area retailers see record sales

By Stephen Betts | Sep 06, 2017

Retail sales for the Midcoast set a record for the first six months of the year.

Sales totaled $183.6 million from January through June for the Rockland economic area, according to the Maine Bureau of Revenue Services. This is an increase of about 5 percent from the same period in 2016.

The Camden economic area also saw record sales during the first half of the year. Retail sales totaled $63.1 million, about 1.5 percent more than a year earlier.

Rockland area

The Rockland market includes all of Knox County except Camden, Rockport, Hope and Appleton.

The 2017 sales figure of $183.6 million is 52 percent greater than during the first half of 2009, which was during the the depths of the Great Recession

The largest category of sales for the Rockland area for the first half of 2017 was motor vehicles. Sales of cars, trucks, motorcycles, sports utility vehicles and motorboats totaled $46.2 million. This was up 11 percent from a year ago.

Building supply stores reported sales of $40.5 million, This is up nearly 5 percent from a year ago.

General merchandise stores, such as department stores, reported sales of $38.6 million. This represents a 6 percent increase from January through June 2016.

Supermarkets recorded sales of taxable items of $22.1 million. This is a 1 percent increase from a year earlier. Most food is exempt from the state's sales tax and is not included in the figures from supermarkets and smaller food stores.

Restaurants had sales of $19 million, unchanged from a year ago.

Lodging businesses reported $3.6 million in revenues, up 12 percent from the previous year. Lodging businesses see the overwhelming amount of their business in the second half of the year.

A miscellaneous group of businesses including jewelers, pharmacies, gift shops, sporting goods stores, bookstores and antiques stores had sales of $13.5 million for the first six months of the year. This was down nearly 4 percent.

"The 2017 summer season has been good to downtown Rockland," said Gordon Page, executive director of Rockland Main Street Inc. "In addition to an increase in folks who continue to discover Rockland as a 'drive-to destination,' rather than a 'drive-through distraction,' the presence of cruise ship passengers and solid attendance at our important festivals have all contributed to a welcome boost for the ongoing revitalization of Rockland."

He said the scores of arts and dining establishments, along with more than 50 shops in and around the downtown district, along with Rockland's beautiful waterfront and historic Main Street, bring visitors to town every day.

July and August are the months with the greatest amount of sales for the Midcoast. There is generally a two-month lag time between the end of months and when figures are released.

Tom Peaco, executive director of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the general feedback he is receiving from chamber members about the summer season is positive.

"The major concern continues to be related to challenges in hiring sufficient staff to keep up with business demands, but the good news is that business is generally strong," Peaco said.

Camden area

The Camden area is defined by the state as those Knox County towns not included in the Rockland market, as well as the adjacent Waldo County towns of Lincolnville and Islesboro.

The largest category of sales for the Camden area during the first half of the year was restaurants, where sales totaled $14.4 million, an increase of about 3 percent from a year earlier.

Food stores had taxable sales of $11.7 million, up 10 percent from 2016.

The miscellaneous group of stores had sales of $10.3 million, up 3 percent.

Building supply stores recorded sales of $9 million, up 8 percent.

Lodging businesses reported revenues of $7.7 million, down 7 percent.

Motor vehicle sales jumped 10 percent to $5.5 million.

General merchandise sales fell 22 percent, according to the state figures, dropping to $4.7 million.

To put the local economic markets in context, the largest economic market in Maine is Portland, which had $1.244 billion in retail sales for the first six months of the year. Bangor had $773 million in sales and Lewiston had $510 million.

Statewide, retail sales totaled slightly more than $8.9 billion for the first six months of the year. This was an increase of 4.2 percent from a year earlier.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Dale Hayward | Sep 06, 2017 08:20

Now is the time for pay raises. Good summer, pass it on.

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