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Ahead of federal rate talks, Bangor businesses seeing a rise in prices

Shop owners in the city said increased operational costs could hit consumers.

BANGOR, Maine — With the Federal Reserve set to discuss a new round of interest rate increases, local businesses in Bangor are closing out a profitable season.

"We did very well this summer despite the weather," Amy Douglass, an employee at the gift shop Rebecca’s on Main Street, said Monday.

In a newly released data set, the Maine Revenue Services reported that retail businesses in the Bangor area made more than $206 million in Julya peak tourist month. That’s up more than $3 million from the same time last year, when inflation was peaking at 8.5 percenta number that has since dropped dramatically.

But a recent uptick in the cost of doing business, combined with a slight climb in inflation, has Douglass concerned.

"It is a little worrisome that everything seems to be going up in price. But honestly, we haven’t seen a downtick in people’s spending," Douglass said.

At the nearby Rock and Art Shop, a similar observation on shipping costs is being made.

"Almost every other order we get notice of an increase," co-owner Annette Dodd said Monday. "And it’s not a huge amount, but it’s a small percentage that things are going up."

Dodd said increasing operational costs could cause her to raise the price of goods, which on a large scale could drive inflation and stall any hope of a "soft landing" for the U.S. economy.

But economist Cristanna Cook of Husson University believes the small price hikes that local business owners are resorting to are unlikely to cause harm.

"You know, the consumer can judge for themselves. They don’t seem to mind the inflation; they’ll go out and buy. They like buying, they’re going to continue to buy," Cook said.

But others disagree. 

Maine State Economist Amanda Rector said while things like business revenues are high and unemployment is low, that could soon change. In a statement, Rector wrote, "There are concerns heading into the fall that rising energy prices and the resumption of student loan payments could impact household budgets and reduce spending in other areas."

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