September 16, 2019

Maine shows robust holiday sales

PORTLAND – Maine’s merchants are reporting strong sales during this year’s holiday season.

L.L. Bean’s December sales were up 8 percent over the same period last year, said spokesman Rich Donaldson.

“We had a hugely successful holiday season,” he said.

Statewide retail sales figures will not be available for several weeks. But several merchants also reported strong sales and a trade-group official says he has heard mostly good reports about the crucial month of December.

“It was generally a positive year,” said Jim McGregor, executive vice president of the Maine Merchants Association. “I think there was generally good economic news. I think the tax decreases helped some.”

Nationally, retailers are expected to report that the holiday season resulted in good, but not great, sales.

A late spending surge helped boost sales last week for many merchants, according to data released Monday, but overall sales are projected to be only modestly better than a year ago.

Unlike a year ago, when last-minute spending was insufficient to help retailers meet their holiday goals, this year’s finale was strong enough to offset December’s earlier weakness, said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist and director of research at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

L.L. Bean saw a big pickup in online sales, with a record one-day surge in Web orders during an early December weekend snowstorm that hit the East Coast.

Donaldson said the Freeport-based company set records for sales across the board. When the weather discouraged shoppers from heading to Bean stores, they simply picked up the phone or logged on to buy goods.

“We posted new records in every channel, from our biggest single day of sales in Freeport to our biggest single day of sales on the Web to our biggest direct mail day,” he said. “It was just a wild month.”

At the Maine Mall, foot traffic and business were both brisk, before and after the holiday, said Ellyn Fleshner, a spokeswoman for the South Portland mall.

The mall doesn’t release specific figures, but Fleshner said that most store owners and managers seemed happy with the spending this year.

Many merchants at the mall said that sales were up and a few reported that they had their best year ever, and some of the chain stores in the mall reported that their sales were among the top five locations in the country, she said.

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