AUBURN —  Curtis Picard cautioned a sold-out Chamber breakfast Thursday morning that after six or seven years of growth, his retail forecast for 2019 looked “a little cloudy.”

Picard, president and CEO of the Retail Association of Maine, said he isn’t negative on retail prospects in Maine next year, but his eyes are open.

Fears about “a ‘retail apocalypse,’ ‘retail is going away’ — absolutely none of that is true,” Picard told Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce members at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch. Retail is, though, undergoing “a serious evolution. Retail has always been super competitive.”

And after years of growth, cycles happen.

He’s listening to real estate agents who say the market is slowing down, to car dealers who are proceeding cautiously and he’s watching the effects of tariffs. Picard said he’s talked to retailers in Maine who stocked up on spring 2019 merchandise this fall, months early, to beat the added costs of impending tariffs, but who now have a lot of inventory they’re sitting on and need to move.

Picard, who lives in Topsham, said that for several years gas prices have been low, consumer confidence has been high and the tourism seasons have been strong.

“I do think we’re headed for some changing times,” he said.

The National Retail Federation is projecting holiday sales nationally will be up 4.3 to 4.8 percent this year. Maine typically mirrors that, Picard said, unless a serious snowstorm or bad weather keeps people home. So far, so good this season.

The federation also estimated 163 million shopped on “cyber Monday,” up 1 million from last year. The top purchases were apparel (57 percent), toys (34 percent) and books and games (29 percent).

Picard said people talk a lot about the Amazon effect on retail, but he’s watching the Dollar General effect.

“They’re shaking things up, in my mind, as much as Amazon is” by targeting small population centers in rural areas and “taking a huge bite” out of businesses, including Walmart, he said.

Companies in Maine that want to stay competitive, he said, need to be conscious of being accessible, being where customers want to find them, offering next-day or two-day shipping, being active on social media and definitely having an e-commerce website.

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Curtis Picard, president and CEO of the Retail Association of Maine, gave a retail forecast that cautioned 2019 could be “a little cloudy” at the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce breakfast Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch. (Sun Journal photo by Kathryn Skelton)

Roger Bouffard, a funeral director with The Fortin Group, and Jordawn Moses, an apprentice there, took the costume honors Thursday at the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch. Moses said her grandmother made the costume 20 years ago. (Sun Journal photo by Kathryn Skelton)