AUGUSTA — As bleary eyed shoppers wandered up and down the aisles early Friday morning, Roxanne Carter combed the electronics section at Target with the sharp eyes of a hunter searching for a deal on which to pounce.
“Once a year you get to go out at midnight and shop,” the Winthrop woman said between sips from a cardboard coffee mug. “It’s awesome! Dunkin’ Donuts is open, too. That’s even better.”
Carter was one of many from around the state who converged on Augusta’s Target store early Friday morning for the annual shopping event that has come to be known as Black Friday. Many stores in Maine opened at midnight, promising deals on all manner of goods, to get an early jump on the Christmas shopping season.
And there was no shortage of people anxious to take advantage of those deals.
Ellyne Fleshner, director of marketing and management for WS Development, the management company that owns Augusta Marketplace, said 1,000 people were lined up at the Augusta Walmart by the time the doors opened at midnight Thursday.
“All they cared about was being the first in line,” Fleshner said. “For one couple, this was their sixth year. They said they don’t care what the giveaway is, they just want to be number one.”
Ashley Rand, who works in human resources for Target, said customers began lining up at 5 a.m. Thanksgiving Day. The line of customers stretched from the door almost around the building as they waited for the store to open its doors at midnight.
Inside, blue tape on the floor directed customers lining up at the checkout to weave up and the down the stacks in the pharmacy and beauty sections.
“The big thing for everyone was the door-buster TV,” Rand said, referring to the 50-inch flat-screen television on sale for $229.
Carter and her friends got in line at 11 p.m. at Old Navy, where items are half priced.
“The line wrapped around the store,” she said.
Fleshner said a survey she made around 7 a.m. of Augusta Marketplace store managers indicates that sales are generally up this year over last year and that there are more customers from away. She heard accounts of customers from as far away as Aroostook County, Quebec and New Brunswick.
“That’s a pretty good range,” she said. “There’s some people saying they are flat, but others are saying they’re doing better.”
By 5 a.m., Carter and her friends had been to more than five stores. She planned to go home for a short nap before heading back out the door to shop. Carter, a certified nurses aid, said she had to be at work by 3 p.m. Friday for a shift that went through 7 a.m. Saturday. Carter has made the overnight shopping trip for the past five years and said the deals are worth it.
“I got all my appliances on Black Friday,” she said.
Joann Reed, of Strong, and her daughter-in-law, Katie Reed, of Farmington, joined the line at Walmart at 11 p.m.. Several family members made the trip.
“We don’t get our hearts set on anything,” Katie Reed said. “That’s what makes it fun.”
Across town, The Paper Store at Augusta Marketplace was “straight out” Fleshner said. Many of those customers were looking for Alex and Ani bracelets, eco-friendly jewelry that comes from a Rhode Island company and typically sells for about $28.
“It’s like the new thing to have this year,” Fleshner said. “Everyone is buying them.”
Beth Leary, of Waterville, and Alicia Curtis, of Clinton, searched the hangers and shelves at The Children’s Place at Augusta Marketplace. They started at midnight at Walmart and had already been to Target, Kohl’s, Old Navy and American Eagle. There’s no particular route, Leary said.
“I needed to get a Christmas tree,” she said. “I got all my nieces and nephews gifts.”
The best deals the women found were Barbie Blue Ray DVDs, all for less than $4.
“That’s really good,” Leary said of the dolls “That was the best deal.”
It was not yet 6 a.m. and the women still had stops to make at Home Depot and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“And then we get to go to bed,” Curtis said.
Even stores that do not sell merchandise or electronics were able to tap in to the throng of shoppers. Panera Bread, for instance, opened at 4 a.m., and was already selling soups and salads.
“Some people as early as 4 a.m. were buying lunches,” Fleshner said.
Liz O’Hearn and Kelly Morang, both of Winthrop, started their shopping day when the Home Depot opened its doors at 5 a.m.
“We started late,” O’Hearn said.
Fleshner said hundreds of people were waiting outside for the Home Depot when it opened its doors. They scarfed up poinsettias and bought all the aluminum work platforms.
“They sold a lot of Christmas decor stuff,” she said.
The women said they weren’t looking for anything special, just good deals.
“It’s fun to watch the other people,” O’Hearn said.
Morang said it is easy to tell the shoppers who take their quest for a deal seriously.
“There was a pretty focused woman at Home Depot,” she said, smiling at O’Hearn. “That made it worth the trip.”
Back at Target, Rand said whether they are focused on one item or just browsing for deals, the customers that came into her store made Black Friday her favorite night to work.
“It’s so much fun,” she said. “Everyone is so excited and happy. It’s great to be around so many of those people.”
Craig Crosby — firstname.lastname@example.org