Like their counterparts nationwide, retailers in Maine say this year’s holiday shopping season is shaping up to be at least as strong as last year’s.

Kelly Edwards, executive director of the Freeport Merchants Association, said sales activity over the Black Friday weekend met or exceeded 2014 activity, according to her members, and that December is turning out to be equally strong.

The weather has remained relatively mild, she said, which bodes particularly well for outdoor shopping destinations such as downtown Freeport.

“Business is really strong, and certainly up from last year,” Edwards said.

Statewide, most retailers have been reporting healthy sales for the first half of December, said Curtis Picard, executive director of the Retail Association of Maine.

One exception has been winter apparel, he said. Consumers in Maine appear to be holding back on purchases until the weather requires it.

“They’re not going to buy winter boots or a new coat until they have to,” Picard said. As a result, “that category has seen some softness.”

Last December, shoppers in Maine spent $385.8 million on general merchandise. It was the strongest December showing since 2007, when shoppers spent $389.6 million. Picard said figures for the current month won’t be available until late February.

In addition to mild temperatures, unusually low fuel prices also appear to be helping retailers in Maine, he said. With less income going toward gasoline and heating oil, that leaves more disposable income for holiday shopping.

Picard said the boost in disposable income is evidenced by retailer reports that more holiday gift shoppers have been purchasing items for themselves on the side.

“Self-shopping is strong,” he said. “You feel like you have the ability to treat yourself.”

Just like in Freeport, retailers in Kittery have benefited from the unseasonably warm weather, said Lynn Smith, marketing director for the Kittery Merchants Association.

“Things have been busy,” she said. “I think the nice weather has definitely helped us.”

Veterans Day usually represents the height of shopping activity in Kittery, Smith said, and this year was no exception. Still, she said better-than-average sales in November and December are a welcome bonus.

“Everybody seems in a festive mood,” she said.


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