Falmouth, Freeport stores celebrate good season of sales, despite weather

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FALMOUTH — For some stores along the redeveloped Route 1 corridor this holiday season, business was booming.

Kate Hirsh, who is a co-owner of TripQuipment at 256 U.S. Route 1, said this holiday shopping season was busier than past years. Hirsh said she wasn’t sure why this year was busier, since they didn’t do anything different to attract customers.

“I think the weather has not hindered us,” she said, adding the unseasonably mild temperatures made it easier for people to get out to stores.

Co-owner Sam Hirsh said “it turned out to be a really nice Christmas.”

A local effort that likely helped was the fourth annual Shop Falmouth event, which was held Dec. 5.

“Area businesses reported a significant uptick in sales due to the increased traffic created by the event,” according to a press release from Words@Work, the company that helped organize the day.

Shop Falmouth was organized by the Falmouth-Cumberland Community Chamber in conjunction with the towns of Cumberland and Falmouth.

Donna Williams, owner of Book Review at 251 U.S. Route 1, said she saw more business at the bookstore compared to last year. She said construction along Route 1 had dampened sales last year. The project, which lasted nearly a year and half, revamped the mile-long stretch of road at a cost of $12.3 million.

“(Business has) bounced back to pre-construction levels,” Williams said.

The end of Route 1 construction, and the uptick in retail activity, was not accompanied by additional crime, either.

Falmouth Police Lt. John Kilbride said officers haven’t noticed more shoplifting this year, despite the higher volume of traffic.

“We give the area special attention,” Kilbride said. “It’s been a really good season.”

Kilbride said some shopping areas, such as Kittery and Freeport, are usually targeted by professional shoplifters. He said the Falmouth police stay alert to trends, such as suspicious vehicles spotted in those areas, and maintain a strong presence in the community to be “visible and accessible.”

In Freeport, L.L. Bean also enjoyed a good shopping season, despite the dampening impact the mild weather had on winter apparel sales.

Bean spokesman Mac McKeever said managers were pleased with how the holiday shopping season went, as the store saw quite a bit of traffic. “Last week was really rocking,” he said.

McKeever also said the days after Christmas were also busy at the store, which he said is a traditional destination for some people who shop after the holiday.

“I would say we’re quite pleased,” McKeever said.

Bean saw strong sales in traditional comfort items, such as slippers and robes, and an increase in the sale of outdoor items, such as sleds, despite the lack of snow.

But McKeever said the retailer had been hoping for a “more robust” market for winter outerwear. He said sales were sluggish compared to past years, because of the weather.

“We can’t predict the weather or change the weather, but winter eventually does come in Maine,” he said. He said the company was optimistic for better sales in January and February.

Kelly Edwards, executive director of FreeportUSA, which is a business promotion organization, said Freeport generally experienced a strong holiday shopping season, especially on Black Friday and during other sales events.

“The town was the busiest I (personally) have ever seen,” Edwards said via email.

She said weekdays seemed a little slow leading up the holidays, but weeknights were “bustling and the weekends very strong.  The last week before Christmas was also a terrific sales week.”

Edwards said stores such as Casco Bay Cutlery & Kitchenware at 5 Depot St. and Vineyard Vines at 58 Main St. both enjoyed strong sales over the holiday shopping season.

Freeport Police Lt. Susan Nourse said public safety officials also saw more shoplifting.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Shoppers walk the streets of Freeport the day before Christmas.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.