AUGUSTA — Bargain hunters were out in full force at city retail stores early Friday for the busiest shopping day of the year.

Maine’s blue laws kept stores with more than 5,000 square feet closed until after midnight, unlike other states where the Walmarts and Targets opened Thanksgiving night.

But the shut doors didn’t stop shoppers from lining up earlier. Some stores even encouraged it. Best Buy, for instance, handed out tickets for limited-quantity items up to two hours before opening.

That meant some retail workers had to be at work late Thanksgiving night and through Friday morning.

Alexis Saucier, 19, spent early Friday morning at Bath & Body Works in the Augusta Marketplace dressed as Hermey — the elf from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

“It didn’t hit me it was so late until it was getting bright again,” she said.

Saucier, of Belgrade, said she worked from 11:45 p.m. until 8:30 a.m., and it was the busiest she had seen the store in her year of working there. “It was crazy until, I’d say, four o’clock, and then it got pretty dead,” she said.

Black Friday gives people still recovering from loading up on turkey and fixings an opportunity to score deeply discounted products like a large-screen TVs.

A lot of late-night shoppers at the store came for the VIP bag — a tote filled with f products that could be bought for a discount if customers spent $40 on other goods, Saucier said.

She said it was “really easy to rack up $40.”

Meagan Fournier, 18, of Leeds greeted customers walking into Bath & Body Works in her own elf costume Friday morning. She said they had just sold their last VIP bag around 11:30 a.m.

“This is the funnest day I’ve worked,” said Fournier, wearing a green hat, green top, red tights and elf shoes. Fournier started work at 8 a.m., relieving overnight employees like Saucier.

She said she usually goes shopping early morning on the day after Thanksgiving for electronics, but didn’t this year because of her morning shift.

Chris Higgan, 31, of Augusta, started working in the electronics section at Kmart around noon and had shopped there earlier in the morning. He said he bought a pot and pan for about the third of its normal price.

But he said most people who shopped during the wee hours Friday came for the television deals.

Even with the really discounted deals long gone, plenty of people were still shopping during the day on Friday.

“It’s been busy all day, and it has not stopped yet,” Higgan said.

Jason Worthing, 34, was shopping at Best Buy Friday morning for a smart Blu-ray disc player and wrestling video game with his 5-year-old son, Dillon. “For the Wii,” added Dillon.

Worthing, of Manchester, is stationed with the Air Force in New Jersey. He said they would likely stop at a couple other stores like Target after Best Buy before the day was out.

“I avoided all the hot air of coming in at midnight or 1,” Worthing said. “I’m just really getting out of bed and seeing what they have left.”

Augusta Police Sgt. Christopher Shaw said no problems related to Friday’s early shopping were reported as of late Friday morning.

“People were pretty good. I think people are planning the night better,” he said.

Shaw was stationed at Best Buy, which handed out tickets to people in line, allowing them to leave as long as they were back by 3 a.m. to pick up their merchandise. “Everything was pretty organized,” he said.

Shaw said officers patrolled the parking lots and there were plain-clothed officers at some stores.

Staff writer Craig Crosby contributed reporting.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
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