SOUTH PORTLAND — An early start meant more convenience and fewer headaches for Mike Malloy of Auburn.

He and his wife arrived at the Maine Mall at 8 a.m. Monday to exchange an iPad he received for Christmas. He anticipated big lines and lots of confusion, but found smooth sailing instead.

“I was expecting it to be much more crowded,” Malloy said, poking around on his new iPad while waiting for his wife to finish errands. “We were here early and got in the Apple store right away and then exchanged a sweater by 9:30. It was perfect. I think people are tired from the holiday and spent enough money at this point.”

When all sales are tallied, national analysts expect Monday will rank as the third-busiest shopping day of the year. Store traffic could be up nationally as much as 60 percent over the same date last year, when Dec. 26 fell on a Sunday.

Because Maine does not restrict Sunday shopping, mall manager Craig Gorris said Maine Mall stores likely would not see as high a spike. Nonetheless, he predicted sales would be strong Monday and continue all week.

“From a business standpoint, depending on what category you are in, some retailers see as much as 15 percent of their retails sales for the holidays between Dec. 26 and the end of the year. This is a very important week,” Gorris said.

Monday was a holiday for most people. The Maine Mall opened at 8 a.m. and closed at 10 p.m. Normal weekday hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Traffic was fairly light during the early part of the day, although the mall began filling up as the day wore on. By midafternoon, the parking lots were full and the mall was teeming with shoppers.

Joelle Corey-Whitman of South Paris came in search of sales.

“My strategy was to save money on clothes for my 17-year-old, who is running around here somewhere with her friend,” Corey-Whitman said, resting at the food court with bags from several stories stacked on a chair. “We were at Macy’s at 7:30, then to Eddie Bauer and Abercrombie & Fitch and other stores where teenagers like to shop.”

She observed that the mall seemed calm, and attributed it to the perception that the economy is lagging.

“There’s still a lack of jobs,” she said. “This time last year, this placed was jammed the day after Christmas. We are very surprised there are not more people here.”

Industry experts warned shoppers not to expect huge discounts. Many retailers discounted prices throughout the holiday shopping season.

That didn’t stop Eddie Kearney of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., from stocking up on dress shirts from JCPenney. “I got two shirts at a great deal. The retail price for one was $30 and $60 for the other, and in all I got them both for $28.33,” he said, checking his receipt.

He was visiting Maine with his fiancee, Brenda Brislin and her mom, Carol. The Brislins have family in Maine and come up from Pennsylvania often at Christmastime.

They carried bags from several stories, and Brenda Brislin proudly showed off new charms for her Pandora bracelet.

“We came to return an item and to take advantage of after-Christmas deals, and we found them,” she said. “But I must say, the stores do not seem all that crowded. We went to Walmart this morning and it felt like there was no one there. There were no lines.”

On a typical busy weekday, Gorris said the mall might attract as many as 18,000 people. He planned for twice that number on Monday.

“We will get double that if not more. We’ve got almost 6,000 parking spots. We’re not going to fill them all, but we will turn them four times. If we are 80 percent capacity, we are talking a lot of people,” he said.

Each car carries an average of 2.3 people, he said.

One reason the mall may have felt less crowded, he said, is because of the slow nature of the holiday. The mall opened early to accommodate people who wanted a head start, but because most folks had the day off, many planned a leisurely afternoon that involved shopping and other activities, he said.

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