PORTLAND – David Lopez is expecting wall-to-wall customers at Treehouse Toys on Exchange Street today, but certainly nothing like the crush of people that big-box retailers see on Black Friday.

“It’s definitely not like Kohl’s or Target or Walmart. Nobody’s going to get injured — hopefully,” said Lopez, the store’s assistant manager and a former big-box employee.

The day after Thanksgiving kicks off the Christmas shopping season. It’s called “Black Friday” because it’s when retailers expect to turn a profit for the year — or get out of the red and into the black.

As many as 152 million people in the United States plan to shop today, Saturday and Sunday — which would be an increase over the 138 million who said they planned to shop last year, according to a National Retail Federation survey.

Efforts are under way to get small retailers like Treehouse Toys a piece of the holiday shopping action. Those include the second annual Small Business Saturday — an initiative created by American Express that has won praise from the Obama administration. Holders of American Express cards can get a $25 credit on their bills when they register and make a purchase of at least that amount at a small business Saturday.

Portland’s Downtown District has added two new initiatives to promote shopping at local retailers. The organization, in conjunction with marketing group Local Thunder, issued Black Friday coupons that can be redeemed at local businesses over the next few days. “Think Outside the Box” — scheduled for the first weekend of December — is an event with performances and demonstrations to promote shopping in the Arts District.

Janis Beitzer, executive director of Portland’s Downtown District, said she expects local retailers to do at least as well as they did last year.

“People want to support their neighbors, their locally owned businesses,” she said. “People really want that kind of connection with their gift giving.”

The weeks leading to Christmas can have triple the sales of an average week at Longfellow Books, according to Chris Bowe, co-owner of the store off Monument Square.

“It’s an important holiday because it allows you to get through the dreary February, March. Keep a roof over your head. Pay your employees,” he said.

It’s also a time that the store can really shine and win over new customers, he said.

A survey on Maine consumer confidence suggests bad news for the shopping season. Maine consumer sentiment —  a composite of several measures — has been falling since it reached a high point in January. That measure suggests that a consumer spending rebound isn’t in the near future, according to Portland-based Market Decisions.

The firm also found that in October, 65 percent of respondents expected the national economy to be worse in five years and 49 percent expected to be worse off themselves in a year. The survey of 400 adult Mainers was conducted Oct. 5-25 and has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

Curtis Mildner, the firm’s president, believes that people are reacting to what he characterized as government paralysis on the economy and congressional logjams.

“People’s perception of what’s going on with the national economy seems to be making the local economy more gloomy,” he said.

Ken Kantro, owner of Lovell Designs on Exchange Street, expects the weather to have a bigger impact than what Congress does — or does not — do. He estimates that Christmas shopping accounts for 20 percent to 30 percent of his sales of jewelry and other decorative objects.

“Ice and heavy snow are much more the enemy than a gridlocked Congress. Yawn,” he said.

Across the street, Edgecomb Pottery manager Steven Anderson said he was expecting a quiet morning as Black Friday die-hards hit the big-box stores.

He expects some shoppers to migrate downtown in the afternoon and the serious “Buy Local” clients to show up Saturday. He said the store relies not on big promotions but on a loyal clientele.

Those include customers such as Nancy Dudley, a bookkeeper who works in Portland and lives in Waterboro. She returned Wednesday to purchase a hostess gift that she had spied earlier in the week.

“I avoid the mall. Too many people trying to hunt down a parking place. It’s just mad,” she said. “I usually do pretty well here.”

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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