Main Street in Downtown Rockland is seen in this 2019 file photo. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

People in the midcoast region are shopping local this holiday season, something that some retailers say is leading to better bottom lines than have been seen in recent memory.

“Our retailers are seeing record-breaking numbers. They’re seeing locals supporting small businesses,” Rockland Main Street Inc. Executive Director David Gogel said. “I think the pandemic showed everyone the power of the dollar and that the best way to keep our businesses in our community during these tough times is to vote with their dollars, [to] come and spend locally.”

Avoiding potential shipping and supply chain issues appears to be one reason more people have gravitated toward shopping locally for the holidays this year, according to business owners and downtown organizations. But beyond the logistical reasons, they say the strong holiday shopping season has been fueled by shoppers’ desire to support local businesses amidst the challenges caused by the pandemic.

Despite not having their usual early bird sale in November due to the pandemic, Grasshopper Shop of Rockland owner Sierra Dietz said the holiday shopping rush began last month and has continued strong into December.

“We are definitely having a very busy season. Everything points to it being probably our best holiday season and probably our best year ever,” Dietz said.

Retailers in the midcoast region also experienced a busier than normal summer.

“It’s more than a bit busier, the whole city of Belfast is just so busy. This has really been going on since summer, [it’s] record breaking,” said Ellie Daniels, who owns The Green Store in Belfast.

Pedestrians and cars move on Main Street in downtown Rockland on Tuesday Sept. 7, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Throughout the pandemic, Dietz said her business has seen an influx of support from local customers, a sentiment which she said has continued into the holiday shopping season. But aside from the desire to spend locally, Dietz said she gets the sense from customers that shopping in person is more appealing this year than taking the chance of buying gifts online and not having them arrive in time.

“Part of that is just the reality [of] if you try to go online and order something the company might not have it in stock or the shipping might take too long,” Dietz said. “People are needing to get that stuff in hand earlier and earlier.”

Though local retailers are not immune from shipping and stocking delays themselves, Deitz said retailers are encouraging people to “buy it when you see it because it might not be here later.”

But when shopping in person, even if something a shopper was looking for is out of stock, they may stumble upon something else they weren’t expecting, said Belfast-based Left Bank Books co-owner Barbara Klausmeyer.

“I think people like being out and seeing stock that they might not normally think they wanted. But the serendipity of seeing that cool book on the shelf that they didn’t even know existed is rewarding,” Klausmeyer said.

This trend has continued for a second pandemic holiday season.

“Last year was good, but this year is continuing to be even better, sometimes it’s been pretty crazy,” Klausmeyer said. “We’ve had to increase our staff coverage which is always good.”

Daniels said she feels the push to shop local is in part due to people becoming more aware of the environmental impact of doing a lot of online shopping. But more than that, she feels it’s representative of people wanting to invest in their own communities, something that the pandemic has made seem more important than ever.

“I think that comes from a sense of shared loss in the pandemic that we have all been experiencing and also gratitude for those businesses that have been hanging in there and providing nice things,” Daniels said.