Thursday, May 23, 2013
By Jessica Hall firstname.lastname@example.org
While Black Friday shopping has traditionally started before dawn on the day after Thanksgiving, big-box retailers nationwide are now opening even earlier, hoping to maximize holiday sales by opening as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Shoppers stroll the corridors of the Maine Mall on Tuesday, beating Black Friday crowds and taking advantage of the fact that retailers are holding sales earlier in the season, including events tied to Veterans Day.
Susan Perkins of Fairfield says she likes shopping at the Maine Mall when the crowds are smaller. “There’s already great sales,” she said Tuesday.
Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
In Maine, shoppers will still have to wait until Friday. Or midnight Thursday, to be exact.
Although L.L. Bean keeps its store in Freeport open 24 hours a day, year-round, most stores larger than 5,000 square feet are prohibited by state law from opening on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
Stores that do plan to open at the stroke of midnight are likely to see cautious shoppers who plan to target only the best deals and spend only slightly more than they did last year.
Krysty Woodcock of Augusta said she's planning to brave the midnight sales at Best Buy and Walmart to hunt for a deal on a television for her family.
"I'm doing all the crazy ones," Woodcock said. "There are pretty good sales. It's worth it."
The town of Freeport plans to turn Black Friday shopping into an event. Santa will arrive just after 11 p.m. on Thursday, riding into town on Amtrak's Downeaster train.
He'll lead a "fun run" on a Harley-Davidson just before stores open at midnight.
At the Maine Mall in South Portland, 51 stores ranging from Best Buy and Build-A-Bear Workshop to Macy's and Yankee Candle will open at midnight. The entire mall will open at 6 a.m. Friday.
"Black Friday is a crucial part of the holiday, but starting as early as mid-October retailers begin to see holiday sales," said Curtis Picard, executive director of the Retail Association of Maine. "Retailers look at more than just one day or just one weekend for sales."
Across the country, as many as 147 million people are expected to shop during Black Friday weekend, down slightly from the 152 million who planned to do so last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
Last year, an estimated 220 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Thanksgiving weekend, the retail group said.
While stores in Maine won't be able to open until midnight, employees of those stores will likely have to work on the holiday, stocking shelves or doing inventory. The state Department of Labor said there's no law restricting work hours on a holiday.
That means the stores that open at midnight can have employees work on Thanksgiving night to prepare for shoppers.
Even with the allure of midnight madness sales, some consumers prefer to shop early and avoid the crowds.
"There's nothing that important that would make me deal with lines, parking and the crowds to maybe save $20," said Susan Perkins of Fairfield on Tuesday. "By shopping today, I avoided the crowds. There's already great sales. There's half-off at some stores already."
Stores have been holding sales earlier and earlier in the season. Holidays such as Veterans Day have become an increasingly important part of the overall holiday shopping season, Picard said.
Veterans Day coincides with Remembrance Day in Canada, drawing shoppers from the north to stores in Maine, Picard said.
Not since 2007 has Black Friday fallen this early in the year, so shoppers have a little extra time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to finish their lists. Those extra days may not translate into blockbuster sales growth, retail experts said.
Total holiday sales, which typically account for more than one-third of retailers' annual revenue, are expected to increase 4.1 percent this year, compared to 5.6 percent a year ago, according to the National Retail Federation. The Retail Association of Maine does not forecast results for the state.
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