CBS News reports that the pandemic has denied thousands of the region’s seasonal workers and artisans a summer’s worth of tourism-driven business. They’re now entering the off-season without their usual summer-sourced profits. And despite creative efforts to find new customers and markets in the age of social distancing, “online mug sales and small in-person showcases are no match for the high traffic Maine's summer art fairs bring.”
"There's a lot of mom-and-pop shops without the technical assistance to access customers and markets through the internet," Dr. Ryan Wallace, Director of Maine Center for Business and Economic Research at USM’s Muskie School of Public Service, told CBS News. "The lack of digital literacy has exacerbated business challenges, particularly in the rural parts of the state."
Wallace said he estimates that Maine seasonal staff at festivals and summer camps were reduced by 50 to 75 percent in summer 2020.
Business owners are also feeling the pinch of the pandemic. Wallace said the cost of outfitting staff with personal protective equipment and installing hand-sanitizing stations, among other pandemic-related expenses, have increased the overhead of many businesses.
"It's been expensive for many businesses to adapt to public health measures,” he said. “For some, it was enough that they decided not to open."