Shannon Haskell of Saco loads a TV into the back of her vehicle with the help of a Best Buy employee after shopping early on Black Friday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Just after dawn on Black Friday, Matthew Pettigrow pulled into the Best Buy parking lot in South Portland and had no trouble finding a parking spot near the store entrance.

There were no crowds of shoppers competing for doorbuster sales, and parking lots at many retailers in the Maine Mall area were nearly empty. Most stores have done away with the midnight openings that used to attract hoards of shoppers looking for the best deals.

“It’s nothing like it used to be,” said Pettigrow, who is from Limington and was shopping with his mother, Heather Collins.

They were prepared to head to the mall at midnight, but waited until closer to 7 a.m. when they realized stores weren’t opening earlier. Pettigrow, list in hand, planned to take advantage of Black Friday deals to score some PlayStation 5 games and possibly a laptop for himself.

“It’s cheaper today,” he said. “I like saving money.”

Despite the slow in-person start, a record-breaking shopping weekend is expected. The National Retail Federation, the largest retail trade group, estimated 166.3 million people were planning to shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, including 114.9 million people on Black Friday.


Inflation has been slowing, but elevated prices for food, gas, heating oil, housing and other necessities have hit many shoppers hard. Experts say many people are reluctant to spend unless there is a big sale, and may shop at less expensive stores than they have in the past.

Matthew Pettigrow of Limington looks over his shopping list before heading into Best Buy for Black Friday shopping with his mother, Heather Collins, of Standish. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales growth will be between 6% and 8%, far below the blistering 13.5% growth last year. However, these figures, which include online spending, aren’t adjusted for inflation so real spending could even be down from a year ago, The Associated Press reported.

Many retailers have moved away from doorbuster deals to focus on online sales that begin weeks before Thanksgiving and stretch through Christmas.

Collins, who lives in Standish, understands why many people shop online for holiday deals, but she prefers to wander through stores as she picks out presents for her grandson and others.

Shoppers walk through Freeport Village Station on Black Friday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“It’s more fun to shop in person and see the stuff,” she said. “You get it right now.”

In Freeport, a persistent rain seemed to discourage the usual day-after-Thanksgiving crowd, although L.L. Bean seemed to draw a steady stream of shoppers because, well, it’s L.L. Bean.


After a stop at the store Friday afternoon, Scott Helsmoorter said he had just one more store to go and he would finish up his Christmas shopping for the season.

Helsmoorter, from Saugerties, New York, said he follows the same routine every year – a trip to Kittery and then to Freeport on Black Friday, and then he’s done with his holiday shopping. That’s also what he did last year when the COVID-19 pandemic was picking up steam again, and he said he’s not concerned by warnings of a resurgence or a particularly tough flu season this year.

Jim and Maryann Gilbert of Hingham, Mass., sit on a bench with their purchases near the entrance to L.L. Bean after shopping on Black Friday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

With inflation pushing prices higher and worries about a possible recession, “I’m more concerned about the economy,” he said.

Maryann and Jim Gilbert, of Hingham, Mass., picked up a few things at L.L. Bean for their six children and 15 grandchildren Friday morning. Maryann Gilbert said her holiday shopping was done after about an hour.

“Got everything,” she said triumphantly.

Htrang Pham Of Falmouth said she got a lot of her holiday shopping done Friday morning, but would put off the rest until the weather gets better – or at least drier.


Cars pull into the Maine Mall parking lot near Best Buy on Friday, Nov. 25. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Shannon Haskell of Saco was a bit surprised to see how empty the Maine Mall parking lot was early Friday morning. When she went to bed Thursday, she didn’t plan to go Black Friday shopping. But her teenage son was up at 4 a.m. to go shopping with friends so she headed out the door, too.

“I was up so I figured I’d go shopping,” she said as she loaded electronics she purchased for her sons into the back of her SUV.

By 9 a.m., a steady stream of shoppers came and went from the mall, many carrying bags from multiple stores. Jamie Gallant, who was visiting from New Hampshire, was headed in to shop with her sister and nieces. She said she planned to spend less on the holidays this year because her household expenses have gone up.

“I definitely will be looking for those hot deals,” she said.

The vibe was decidedly more calm at the Bull Moose store in Scarborough, which opened at 8 a.m. to sell special Record Store Day vinyl releases. Store manager Joshua Douglas said the second person in line arrived at 6:30 a.m.

Scott Leavitt of Biddeford looks over albums while shopping at Bull Moose in Scarborough on Black Friday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

During his 25 years in the business, Douglas said, he has noticed a shift away from the frantic Black Friday shopping that used to grab headlines.

“People are so much more relaxed now around holiday shopping,” he said.

Scott Leavitt of Biddeford came in to pick up a Record Store Day exclusive, a limited edition of the Jerry Garcia Band’s 1991 show in Hampton, Virginia. He didn’t plan to do any other in-person Black Friday shopping.

“I’m more of an online shopper, but this does draw me out,” he said.

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