SOUTH PORTLAND – Martin Donohoe came for a television.
Emily Doyon came for the boots.
Both shoppers showed up at the Maine Mall on Black Friday, willing to brave the crowds to score a great deal. But each first-time Black Friday shopper had a different strategy for the crowded kickoff to the holiday shopping season.
Donohoe, 64, of Portland sat outside Best Buy for 13 hours before the doors opened at midnight. Bundled against the 22-degree cold and sharp wind, he was second in line and ready to buy a television for $169, nearly half the regular price.
“I just wanted to experience at least once in my lifetime what it’s like to be here on Black Friday,” he said, minutes before the doors opened to the line of hundreds of shoppers that snaked around the corner of the building. “And I need a TV.”
Doyon, an 18-year-old college student from Biddeford, had no plans to go shopping Friday until she and her mother came across an advertisement for a $20 boot sale at Bon-Ton, the mall’s new department store. Less than an hour after the doors opened, she sat in the middle of a pile of shoe boxes as her mother, Ann Marie Doyon, grabbed more boots to try on.
“I’m a college kid on a budget, so I’ll probably get one pair,” Emily Doyon said.
Most stores in Maine are not allowed to open on Thanksgiving because of the state’s blue laws, giving the stores a later jump start on holiday sales than those in other states where stores opened as early as Thanksgiving morning.
But that late start did little to deter Mainers who were ready to shop. Within a half our of the mall’s midnight opening, thousands of shoppers crowded inside, even though some stores remained closed until later in the morning.
Before midnight, the line in front of Target stretched the length of the building and continued around the corner. At nearby Toys R Us, several hundred shoppers — including some huddled in small tents — waited for the doors to open.
The crowd at Walmart in Scarborough was even larger, with two long lines of several hundred people each stretching around the building.
The National Retail Federation expects retail sales to be up 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion during the last two months of the year. That’s higher than last year’s 3.5 percent growth, but below the 6 percent pace seen before the recession.
Some Maine shoppers said they are spending more this year, while others said they expected their hauls to be much smaller than in years past.
Mike McGovern of Portland, the first person in the Best Buy line, said he has a new job as a mechanical engineer, putting him in the position to spend more than he did last year. He planned to spend nearly $800 on a DSLR camera, $500 on a television and another $100 on a Kindle Fire.
Over at Target, friends Carrie Presley and Lori Exley sat in folding camp chairs in line. They shop together every Black Friday, but both expected to spend less than last year because there were no big sales on toys their children want. Exley said she planned to buy a 40-inch television for $199.
“I’m just looking for what I can find,” Presley said.
While some shoppers at the Maine Mall came armed with a list and a mission, others were there to take in the festivities. Groups of teenagers – only some carrying shopping bags – stood in groups, laughing and talking with friends.
Allie Walker, 17, of Gorham and Katie Pride, 18, of Scarborough arrived at the mall at midnight to hit up a boot sale at Macy’s, then set their sights on Christmas shopping for their families.
Walker, who shops the Black Friday sales every year, planned to spend $300 and wanted to leave with all her Christmas shopping finished. Pride, who had never been Black Friday shopping before, said “my mom said $120 is my limit.”
For 14-year-old Andrew Maley of Windham, an hour wait in the Best Buy line was worth it to get a television on sale for $160. It was his first Black Friday shopping trip, but he came with his more experienced great-aunt, Debbie Densmore of Saco, who has shopped the Best Buy sales in the past.
As Maley and Densmore made their way into Best Buy well after the first wave of shoppers, they scooped up three Kindle Fires and a regular Kindle before heading for the televisions.
“It’s been awesome, except for the cold,” Maley said.
Jenn Chabot, a consultant who works at Best Buy, watched as shoppers looked at computers, occasionally directing a customer to the correct line to wait for high-demand items like laptops and tablets.
“It’s pandemonium,” she said. “I just love it.”
As 2 a.m. approached, the mall seemed to become even more crowded with shoppers loaded down with shopping bags. Near the entrance to Bon-Ton, 10-year-old Luci Sweet of Westbrook dozed on a bench, her head resting in her mother’s lap. Zoe Sweet said she brought her daughters – Luci and 11-year-old Sophie – for their first Black Friday shopping trip.
“It was all (Sophie’s) idea,” Zoe Sweet said as she waited for her older daughter and her friends to finish shopping. “We’ll shop until we can’t anymore.”
Comedian Bob Marley, who stood near a kiosk selling his “Upta Camp” merchandise, occasionally posed for a photo with a fan, but otherwise stood watching the crowds.
“It’s like salmon (swimming) upstream. It’s craziness,” he said. “When the doors open, it’s âThe Walking Dead’ meets âIt’s a Wonderful Life.'”
Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:[email protected]Twitter: @grahamgillian