There was a long line outside Best Buy at The Maine Mall in South Portland when Wendy Bunney-Benner arrived for the tech store’s 5 a.m. opening on Black Friday.

So she drove over to the Walmart in Scarborough, just five minutes away, to pick up a $120 air fryer for only $65.

“I left and came back,” Bunney-Benner said, standing outside Best Buy again around 6 a.m. “Walmart was dead. I walked in, got what I wanted and walked out.”

Similar early openings occurred at Kohl’s, JCPenney, Macy’s, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Target and other national chain stores.

Retailers were expecting bigger crowds than last year on Black Friday, but supply chain problems have continued to limit selection while ongoing concerns about coronavirus transmission were expected to keep many shoppers away, The Associated Press reported. Consumers will likely pay higher prices on gifts this year as a result of the disruptions.

Customers line up outside Best Buy in South Portland before 6 a.m. on Black Friday. The store opened at 5 a.m. and allowed customers in about 25 to 50 people at a time.  Michele McDonald/Staff Photographer

People started gathering outside Best Buy around 3 a.m. Friday, geared up for the promise of special deals on televisions, smartphones and other sought-after items. South Portland police officers provided security at the door, letting in 25 to 50 people at a time. Those queuing up said they were glad it was a relatively warm 43 degrees outdoors and that rain forecasted to start by 5 a.m. held off for a few hours.


But while the line of a few hundred people eventually snaked along the mall sidewalk, past several darkened storefronts to the closed Sears store, it was clear that many were present for the experience as much as the bargains.

Bunney-Benner, a bartender who lives in Limington, said she always ventures out on Black Friday, even though now she can get many of the same deals at other times or by shopping online from the comfort of home.

“I like coming out and watching all the people,” said Bunney-Benner, 50. “I do it every year, and I’m usually done by now. But it’s not like it used to be. There’s hardly anybody out here now.”


Freeport’s sidewalks were busy Friday afternoon, despite a persistent cold rain.

For Barbara Lutz, of South Portland, it was a chance to resurrect a tradition of shopping with her daughter the day after Thanksgiving. Lutz said she skipped it last year because of the pandemic but was happy to be out with the crowds this year, although she wore a mask to lessen the chance of infection.


There’s just something about the energy of a lot of people to kick off the holiday season, Lutz said.

“There are some good deals, and it’s fun,” she said.

Kelly and Barbara Boyneton, of Biddeford, said they also enjoyed the experience, but the “deals” part? Not so much.

The couple bought only a handful of gifts for family after finding that many of their favorite stores in Freeport had closed.

“Every year we come up and get 75 percent of our shopping done,” Kelly Boyneton said, but that wasn’t the case this year.

Asked where they would turn now to get most of their gifts, Barbara Boyneton had a simple, one-word answer: “Online.”


In the center from left, Mike George, Nick DeLeo, Thomas Donahue, Will Marcotte and Connor Corcoran, a group of friends from the greater Portland area, walk into Best Buy before 6 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving. They were shopping for everything from earbuds to televisions.  Michele McDonald/Staff Photographer

Jelena Simic, from Serbia, also felt a little disappointed.

“I feel like it was a waste to come out,” she said, although her mother had a small bag of purchases.

Wherever they shop, consumers are expected to pay 5 to 17 percent more for toys, clothing, appliances, TVs and other purchases on Black Friday this year compared with last year, according to Aurelien Duthoit, senior sector adviser at Allianz Research.

TVs will see the highest average price hike, up 17 percent from a year ago, according to the research firm. That’s because whatever discounts are available will be applied to goods that are already more expensive this year.


Many of the customers at Best Buy early Friday were recent immigrants, some experiencing Black Friday for the first time.


At the front of the line was Joel Naca, 25, of Portland, a recent arrival from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He wasn’t planning to buy anything in particular.

“I want to check around and see,” said Naca, interpreted by his friend, Emanuel Silva, 38, also from the DRC.

“We see (the advertisements) on TV and they say maybe today I get the cheapest phone,” said Silva, also of Portland, who was shopping with his wife and young son asleep in a stroller.

Joel Naca, 25, Portland, was near the front of the line before the 5 a.m. opening of Best Buy in South Portland on Black Friday morning. He came to just “check around.” Michele McDonald/Staff Photographer

Elsewhere in the line was Fal Minu, 37, of South Portland, an immigrant from the DRC who works as a caretaker for disabled people. He and his brother Eureka Kaka, 34, who works at Tyson Foods, planned to shop for a television and other items.

Minu said many recent immigrants enjoy participating in Black Friday as a cultural event, even if they don’t buy anything.

“They come just for the experience to be here,” Minu said.


Some at Best Buy were teenagers simply looking to have some fun.

Natalie LaBrie, 16, of Westbrook, and Avery Lytle, 15, of Windham, showed up in pajamas and sweatpants, respectively.

“We’re just bored,” said LaBrie, who slept a few hours before arriving at Best Buy at 4:30 a.m.

“I stayed up all night,” Lytle said. “I wouldn’t have been able to wake up for this if I went to sleep.”

Thomas Donahue, 18, of Scarborough, joined several friends for some rowdy fun, cracking jokes and ribbing one another as they stood in line.

“I’m trying to cop a new (Microsoft) Xbox or (Sony PlayStation 5),” Donahue said. “But either way, it’s a fun little trip with the boys.”

Teresa Kennedy, of Standish, carries two boxes with boots to the cash register at Lamey Wellehan shoe store in Scarborough on Friday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

For some shoppers on Black Friday, buying local was as important as getting a good deal.

Teresa Kennedy, of Standish, was at Lamey Wellehan shoe store in Scarborough as soon as it opened at 10 a.m., even though the Maine-based chain’s 20 percent-off Black Friday sale started last Saturday and runs through Sunday. The store was busy, but she quickly purchased two pairs of winter boots.

“I come here every year on Black Friday,” said Kennedy, 48, an insurance claims analyst. “They always have a good sale, and I like the quality of their products. And they know me here.”

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