SOUTH PORTLAND – Lured by Black Friday discounts and a record number of open stores, shoppers poured into the Maine Mall just after the clock struck 12 as part of a nationwide shopping frenzy that continued throughout the day.

Store managers appeared weary but happy to report that sale volumes were living up to their high expectations. The Friday after Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday shopping season, a period when retailers make more than 30 percent of their annual sales.

“It’s totally crazy,” said Ethan Taylor-Pierce, an assistant manager at Brookstone, where the best-selling item was a remote-controlled helicopter for $59.99.

At Best Buy, people began lining up before noon Thursday, many of them waiting to buy a 40-inch Toshiba flat screen TV for $179.99.

By 10:30 p.m. Thursday, Best Buy workers had handed out vouchers for all of the televisions the store had in stock.

By 2 a.m. Friday, a line remained outside as Best Buy controlled the number of shoppers allowed inside at once.

“I am very pleased with the amount of traffic,” said Mike Sprague, one of the store’s assistant managers.

Besides the anchor stores such as Best Buy and Macy’s, 58 stores at the mall opened at midnight, by far the largest number ever, said Craig Gorris, the mall’s general manager.

The scene at the mall was orderly, for the most part, with the exception of a fight that broke out among five people about an hour after the mall opened.

The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales to rise 4.1 percent this year, less than last year’s growth of 5.6 percent.

Many shoppers at the Maine Mall on Friday said they plan to spend about the same or less than last year as they keep a more careful eye on promotions and pare their shopping lists.

Cat Bibeau started her Black Friday shopping at midnight at Walmart and arrived at JC Penney as it opened just before 6 a.m.

“This is not for the newbie shopper,” she said. “Only veterans.”

The secret is to have a list and work around the clock, hitting stores as they open, she said.

Other advice: dress comfortably and wear a backpack to leave hands free to carry bags.

Erika Jordan of Parsonsfield shopped at JCPenney as a team with friends and family members. They had a game plan. Some of them hit the shoe department while Jordan and others stocked up on pillows and housewares.

“We’ve got to go to the car and unload and come back in,” Jordan said, laughing.

Catherine Stevenson of Bath said she never went to bed Thursday so she could start shopping at midnight. The best deals she saw were jewelry at Sears, and Abercrombie & Fitch’s 50-percent-off sale on everything in the store.

Beverly Maierhofer of Yarmouth, who arrived at the mall Thursday afternoon with her twin 16-year-old daughters, spent 15 minutes trying to find a parking space. At Forever 21, where her daughters bought sweaters and scarves, they waited another 15 minutes at the cash register.

Her total Black Friday savings: “Zip,” moaned one of her daughters, Maddy.

“We are like the most pathetic shoppers,” Beverly Maierhofer said.

Black Friday is an indicator for what kind of Christmas season retailers can expect. And so far, so good.

The stock market enjoyed some Black Friday cheer and rose sharply. Major stock indexes closed one of their best weeks of the year.

“Foot traffic appears heavier than we’ve seen in recent years,” J.J. Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist for the brokerage TD Ameritrade, told The Associated Press. “There are a lot of positive statements out of the companies themselves, and momentum appears to be strong.”

 

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhall@pressherald.com

 

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com