Local business owners say holiday shopping season is off to a strong start

They may not attract as much attention as Black Friday shoppers flocking to Walmart, but locally-minded shoppers have helped the Mid Coast retailer get the holiday shopping season off to a strong start, according to business owners in the area.

Stores such as Brunswick’s Hatch in Maine saw big sales this weekend, and Black Friday and Small Business Saturday sales drew post-Thanksgiving gift buyers from their comas to downtown Mid Coast.

Hatch on Maine co-owner Dustan Larsen checks out a customer during Brunswick Small Business Saturdays last year. The Times file photo

“Sometimes you look up at Hatch and the store is full of people excited to go out and do some holiday shopping,” said Dustan Larsen, co-owner of the boutique and its sister store, Hatch Home. “The store is busy almost all day.”

According to the National Retail Federation, retail spending nationwide in November and December has been rising for the past decade. While another record high is likely this winter, the group warns that inflation could slow spending growth, posing challenges for Hatch and many other small businesses that rely on a busy holiday season to make up for the slower season later in winter.

Business groups such as Main Street Bath and the Brunswick Downtown Association have turned to community events such as Bright Night Bath and the Brunswick Early Bird Sale to once again bring together local shoppers who have prepared for retailers and restaurants in the challenging months following March 2020 Provided a lifeline.

“I think the community has proven itself in terms of local support during the pandemic,” said Deborah King, president of the Brunswick Downtown Association. “The message is loud and clear: If you don’t support local businesses now, they won’t later.”

Mike Fear, co-owner of Now You’re Cooking in Bath, said the strong business-consumer relationship built over the years had been tested during the pandemic to the benefit of both parties.

The store, which generates about 40% of its annual sales in October, November and December, is on track to hit record highs in 2020 and 2021, he said. Despite the supply chain causing price increases, business has remained stable as customers trust Now You’re Cooking to charge them a fair price.

“If we get a good deal, we pass it on to our customers,” Fear said. “They take care of us and we try to take care of them.”

Upcoming events, like Freeport’s annual Sparkle Celebration and Bath’s Old Fashioned Christmas, will give residents even more incentive to visit downtown Central Coast and the storefronts that line them, while multipurpose gift certificates, like Downtown Brunswick’s ” Buy Brunswick” gift card made easy Shop locally.

Supporting small businesses on the Central Coast may take more work than visiting a large online retailer, but King said the effort pays off in a big way for the community.

“Amazon call center workers don’t dance for joy when they get a big order,” she said. “But you can guarantee that you’ll put a smile on the faces of the people who own the (local) businesses and their employees.”

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