When it comes to Black Friday shopping, Stacey Ward and Brenda O’Brien don’t mess around.

They started out Thursday afternoon in New Hampshire, because unlike in Maine, retailers there are allowed to open in the afternoon on Thanksgiving. Then they drove back to Maine, took a nap, and hit the stores in South Portland, starting with Target at midnight.

And they were just getting started. Ward, of Hollis, and O’Brien, of Bucksport, said they planned to continue on into the wee hours of the morning.

“It’s our every-year tradition,” Ward said. O’Brien added, “Last year, my husband called me at 3 a.m. and said, ‘Where are you?’ ”

Thousands of Maine shoppers shrugged off the cold and drizzle and headed out to their favorite stores Thursday night and early Friday morning to take advantage of the many Black Friday sales. Meanwhile, retailers said they were stepping up their game this year to better compete with e-commerce sites and one another.

Kehinde Aderibigbe of Portland began his Black Friday marathon much earlier. Standing first in line at Best Buy in South Portland when the doors opened just before midnight, Aderibigbe said he had arrived there about 10 a.m. Thursday.

He was looking for a 50-inch TV and computer upgrades for himself, along with an Xbox One to give as a wedding gift. Aderibigbe said he has been an early-bird shopper on Black Friday for at least a decade.

“I’ve done this many times,” he said. “I do enjoy it. Sometimes I don’t even get the door-buster deals. I just enjoy being here.”


Total holiday sales revenue in the U.S. is expected to exceed $1 trillion this year, an increase of roughly 4 percent from the previous November through January, according to the 2016 Deloitte Holiday Survey, conducted by the Deloitte University Press in late October. The survey found that consumers remain bullish about the U.S. economy and said their personal financial conditions have continued to improve.

The increase in online sales is expected to be significant, based on the survey. Deloitte is forecasting a 17 to 19 percent increase in e-commerce sales for the three-month holiday shopping period, an increase of nearly $100 billion. On average, those surveyed said they planned to do about half of their shopping online this holiday season.

Some retailers at The Maine Mall in South Portland said they expanded their sales this year to keep up with the intense competition.

Misha Wagner, manager of Build-a-Bear Workshop inside the mall, said the store decided to offer buy-one-get-one-free deals on every single item in the store, just for the 23-hour period between midnight Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday. She was confident the storewide sale would make Build-a-Bear a contender among all the competition.

“Today, we wanted to make sure we came out with a big bang,” Wagner said.

Another Maine Mall retailer, The Walking Co., was employing a similar strategy. Manager Artemas Foster said the footwear seller expanded its Black Friday sale this year to include more inventory, including the highly popular UGG boots, which it had not placed on sale in previous years.

“We have pretty much all of our boots and slippers on sale right now,” Foster said.

Perhaps the longest line inside The Maine Mall was to get into clothing retailer Pink. The consensus among those in line, primarily teenage girls, was that Pink is expensive, so you have to come out for bargains when you can.

Sarah Gagnon, 17, of Waterboro said she was interested in buying “anything that’s on sale” at Pink. Gagnon and her friend, 17-year-old Kylee Jacob of Waterboro, said they arrived at the mall at about 10:45 p.m. Thursday and were pleased to discover that the doors were already open, allowing customers to line up inside, where it was warm and dry.

“If we would have known, we would have got here earlier,” Gagnon said.

Foster was doing his best to ensure that the long night would be enjoyable for staff as well as customers.

“The crowds can be overwhelming, but I’ve got an awesome team,” he said. “We’ve got a potluck going out back.”

Target store manager Puneet Mathur said the hundreds of customers who entered the store starting at midnight Thursday were upbeat and respectful of one another despite having to wait out in the cold and rain. By 12:45 a.m. Friday, the checkout line snaked up and down the aisles halfway to the rear of the store.

Mathur said the key to a successful Black Friday operation is practice. The retailer has learned a little more each year and adjusted accordingly to make things run more smoothly.

“We get them in and out of here safely and as quickly as possible,” he said.


As dawn broke in Kittery on Friday, the parking lots of the outlet malls slowly filled with cars, most with out-of-state plates. Missing were the big crowds typically seen at midnight openings, but the management of the Kittery Premium Outlets mall expected the pace to pick up throughout the day.

This year, stores opened at 6 a.m. While some stores opened at midnight last year, opening times were changed this year to better match the patterns of shoppers.

Many shoppers come to the Kittery outlets from out of state and stay for the entire day, said Kathy Akopov, marketing manager for Kittery Premium Outlets.

Akopov said the holiday shopping season kicked off on Veterans Day, especially with shoppers from Canada.

Kelly Miller of Saint John, New Brunswick, walked past a line of nearly empty shops, a cup of coffee in hand. She said she comes to Kittery every Black Friday. This year, Miller, her sister and two friends were capping a weeklong vacation. They lamented that the exchange rate wasn’t better, but were still finding good deals on clothes and toys, Miller said.

At the New Balance outlet, Jillian Labillois of New Brunswick was shopping for shoes with her mother. They make the eight-hour drive to Kittery every Black Friday.

“Even though the Canadian dollar isn’t strong, it’s still worth the trip,” she said.

Kristi McDurman of Phoenix was in town to visit family and was dragged out of bed by her two young cousins to visit the Nike outlet, where her 10-year-old cousin scored a $130 pair of sneakers for $20.

Christina Prior, manager of the New Balance outlet, said holiday shopping is off to a strong start, even if there were few shoppers before 8 a.m. Friday. She expected to be busier later in the day and throughout the weekend.

“November has been really good to us,” she said. “It’s the busiest I’ve seen it in a long time.”

In Freeport at midmorning Friday, most shoppers walking up and down the street carried L.L. Bean bags. Roger Diffin, general manager of the flagship store, walked through the racks of flannel shirts and outdoor gear with a duster in his back pocket and a walkie-talkie on his hip.

“Traffic has been fantastic,” Diffin said. “We’re going to have a pretty great weekend.”

Overnight traffic was double what it had been in past years, Diffin said, and he expected 15,000 customers to shop at the store before the end of the day. More than 450 employees were scheduled to work shifts throughout the day.

He attributed the increase in traffic to Black Friday deals, as well as a full stock of Bean boots. Popular sizes of the iconic shoes have been back-ordered early in the season in past years, but the company ramped up production at its Brunswick and Lewiston factories to meet demand.

“My hope is that today surpasses the largest volume day we’ve had in five years,” Diffin said. “Come while we have the product.”

Freeport is always the first stop of the day for Lisa Gilbert of Turner. She arrived at 5:30 a.m., and five hours later, her hands were full of bags.

She wouldn’t reveal their contents, however, because they were stuffed with Christmas presents for her two daughters.

“Can’t really say,” she joked.

John Angelone, 22, ventured out in Freeport for his first Black Friday shopping with his girlfriend Rose Woodruff, 19.

Woodruff, who is from Buxton, had a Cole Haan bag in her hand but said she had resisted other deals.

“I was holding back,” she said.

They planned to leave soon.

“While we still can,” Angelone said. “While I still have money in my wallet.”

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