SOUTH PORTLAND — Thousands of Mainers today jammed into shopping malls and big box stores, drawn by Black Friday sales.

At Best Buy at the Maine Mall, the line began forming at 9:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. By midnight, when the store opened, the crowd was estimated at 1,500, and the line stretched around the mall to the entrance of the automotive department at Sears.

Patrick Cheung, 28, an engineer visiting Maine from Hong Kong for a training program, laughed when he saw the crowd of about 600 people at Best Buy at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Big lines are common in Asia because of the scarcity of some consumer goods, he explained. But the Chinese assume that there are no lines in the United States because this is the land of plenty.

But not on Black Friday.

Best Buy sold off its entire stock of 42-inch Sharp LCD TVs before the store even opened its doors. To keep order among those clamoring for the TVs, which sold for $199.99, Best Buy workers handed out tickets to people waiting in line.

The long lines reminded Cheung of shopping in China.

“It is quite funny to find the same thing in America,” he said.

At the Maine Mall, today is the biggest shopping day of the year outside the last week before Christmas. But at some big box stores, such as Best Buy, today is the biggest sales day of the year.

Shawn Harris, a sales manager at Best Buy, began working at midnight and was still on his feet at 11 a.m. on Friday, having consumed five or six cans of Red Bull, an energy drink with the same caffeine punch as a cup of coffee.

He said the crowd this year was more cheerful than in past years. This is the first year Best Buy has opened at midnight at the Maine Mall, and he figures that people are in a better mood when they arrive at midnight rather than 5 a.m.

“I feel a good vibe, a good energy this year,” he said. “Everyone is in a good mood.”

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, typically sets the tone for shopping throughout the holiday season. This year, retailers were eager to get a jump start on the day with earlier-than-ever openings.
Numerous stores at the mall opened at midnight, including Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, Olympia Sports, Old Navy, American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Aeropostale. Several stores opened at 4 a.m., including Sears and JC Penny.

The mall, which opened at 5 a.m., will have live musical performances throughout the day today.