With action plans formed while combing through sales fliers before and after Thanksgiving dinner, thousands of Black Friday shoppers descended on central Maine stores in the wee hours of the morning Friday — or, in many cases, formed long lines Thursday night before the stores could even open.

By 4 a.m. Friday, Nicole Rooney of Readfield, Gloria Biron of Lewiston, and Miriah Cote of Strong, had been at it since 11:45 p.m. Thursday. When they got to Augusta’s Walmart at that hour, 15 minutes before opening, lines had already formed at each door to the store, wrapping around the edges of the big building. Some shoppers had been in the line for hours.

While the trio of women’s wait in line was shorter than some, they still had quite a marathon of shopping planned.

“We weren’t going to stand in line for three or four hours,” Rooney said. “We figured we get what we get, if it’s still there.”

They got the TV they were after at Walmart at the Marketplace at Augusta, then traveled to the other side of the city to hit Best Buy and Target, at Augusta Crossing. By 4 a.m. they were back at the Marketplace, shopping at multiple smaller stores. And they planned to go back to Best Buy at 7 a.m., to buy a Windows tablet that didn’t go on sale until 8 a.m.

Rooney joked the two older women were breaking in the younger Cote, who was on her first Black Friday shopping trip. Around 4 a.m., Rooney was starting to lose her steam.

“I’m not,” Cote said. “I love it. I’m running on coffee right now.”

Biron said the best part of the morning so far “was when we were in the car singing.” On a chilly morning with temperatures dipping into the teens on a concrete sidewalk outside Eddie Bauer, she chimed in with the chorus of Meghan Trainor’s song “All About That Bass,” as Cote cringed, to prove her point.

In Waterville, Erika Cates was browsing at about 6 a.m. with shopping companion Maggie Cambden through an aisle of books at Bull Moose and said she was there for the “spectacle of shopping for Black Friday.”

Cambden and Cates said they had started out earlier in Augusta at Target and had made their way to the Elm Plaza shopping center in Waterville.

Nationwide, an estimated 67.6 million shoppers said they planned to shop no matter what between Thursday and Sunday to cash in on Black Friday deals over the long Thanksgiving weekend, according to a survey from an industry group, the National Retail Federation. Additionally, the federation survey estimated about 72.5 million additional shoppers may come out over the weekend if they see a particular deal worth coming out for.

Retailers, trying to increase their earnings from the massive amounts of shoppers that turn out for the early morning deals, have opened their doors even earlier this year in most states. Maine, however, is one of three states that ban the practice of opening on Thanksgiving, with exceptions only for small operations and some outdoor products sellers. So many local stores opened at midnight, the soonest they could open under Maine law.

The estimated 140.1 million unique shoppers that said they will or may come out over the holiday weekend was down slightly from last year’s survey of 140.3 million, but overall in central Maine, shopping turnouts remained high and steady. Managers at Super Shoes and Bull Moose reported opening their doors a little earlier than they had planned after seeing shoppers outside.

LONG LINES

The Marketplace at Augusta, for the first time, had a couple of food trucks in its parking lots this Black Friday. However, neither of the food trucks — Pinky D’s, which advertised loaded Tater Tots in the parking lot between Game Stop and Old Navy, or the Pasta Pot, which advertised fried dough while parked just outside Kohl’s — appeared to be nearly as busy as the stores themselves.

A DJ also played music, which could be heard from as far away as Anthony Avenue in the Augusta Business Park, including holiday tunes such as “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” “Feliz Navidad,” and “Father Christmas.”

Ellyne Fleshner, director of field marketing and management for WS Development, the firm that owns the Marketplace, said in a news release they brought the food trucks in to help feed the masses of shoppers who, over the course of the morning, could get cold, tired and hungry. She said it was a way of showing appreciation for the shoppers waiting for hours for stores to open.

At Best Buy in Augusta, just as it opened at midnight, Chris Turner of Gardiner said he’d been in line since 9 a.m. Thursday. He was near, but not at, the front of the line, as two groups of shoppers were ahead of him.

He said he was there to get a TV and a Windows tablet and that he had enjoyed himself despite the long wait all day on Thanksgiving. The line went from the front of the store to around the corner.

Michael Taylor of Winthrop was first in line at Walmart as it neared its midnight opening. He said he’d been there since about 5:30 p.m., Thursday, and joked about people in the line at Best Buy getting in line several hours before the line formed at Walmart.

“They’re crazy,” he said of people in line at Best Buy since early Thursday morning. “People look at me and say I’m crazy. But that just takes it to a whole other level.”

Taylor said he was looking to buy between 20 and 30 items on Black Friday. The 27-year-old said he’s shopped on the day, off and on, since he was 14 years old, but this was the first time he’d been first in line. He had a map with him at Walmart, showing the store’s layout, so he’d know where to go once he got in.

At Walmart stores in Scarborough and Ellsworth, the AFL-CIO organized protests to call for better wages and full-time hours for Walmart workers. The protests were part of a nationwide effort, according to a press release from the Maine AFL-CIO.

EARLY MORNING

Two lines, one of about 60 people and the other about half that, formed outside Home Depot before the store opened at 5 a.m. Friday, a relative late-opener at the Marketplace, a 1.3 million-square-foot shopping center where several stores opened at midnight and others opened at 4 a.m.

Ken Hanscome, who had been shopping with his wife since midnight, was waiting for Home Depot to open, and hoped to finish their shopping foray, which so far had included Dick’s Sporting Goods and Best Buy, among others.

“I’m ready to go home and go to bed,” Hanscome said.

The Guilford couple said they weren’t there looking for anything specific. They said they finished Thanksgiving dinner Thursday, and didn’t have anything else to do, so they headed for the Augusta shops.

Tina Steeves of Belgrade, who was shopping with her granddaughters at Walmart in Augusta, said it was her fifth and last year of going out and about shopping on Black Friday. She said she recently learned some “door-buster” sales items in stores are available online at the same discounted prices. So, starting next year, Steeves she plans to do her shopping online.

Couple Tammy Turner and Brent Hart of Chelsea were third in line at Home Depot. They were there to get a Christmas tree for Turner’s daughter.

“She’s home in bed, someone’s doing it wrong,” Turner joked about her daughter, as they waited in the icy parking lot for the store to open.

Hart said they started planning their Black Friday shopping last week. And Turner said the last-minute planning wasn’t completed until Thanksgiving dinner with family where all six girls in the family sat together and poured through stores’ sales fliers, looking for the best deals.

Turner acknowledged she “kind of dragged” Hart along on the shopping trip.

At 5 a.m., two Home Depot workers opened the doors and stepped to the side. Both lines of shoppers flowed, calmly and steadily from opposite directions, into the store, with many shoppers grabbing a Christmas wreath from a display outside the store, on their way in. Numerous shoppers walked around with cups of hot beverages.

Tony Flye of Augusta was second in line at Home Depot, where the line only formed 15 minutes or so before it opened. He said he had a few things to pick up there, and he had been through the newspaper flier for the store to research what he was getting. He had not been shopping elsewhere Friday, nor did he plan to.

“I’ve just got a few things to pick up here, I’ll be in and out,” Flye said.

FAMILY TRADITION

About a half hour after opening, the parking lot at Super Shoes off Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville was full of parked cars. A line of shoppers holding boxes of discounted shoes was starting to snake its way through the store, though Tony Ireland, manager at Super Shoes, said that “this is nothing” and heavier shopper traffic was expected as the day went on.

At Walmart, mother and daughter Andrea Marks and Amy Strout said they were Black Friday shopping out of a long standing family ritual.

“It’s family tradition,” said Marks.

Strout said they came out at first to get certain toys or electronics on sale for their kids when they were younger, and now keep coming out for the tradition.

“Every year we ask, ‘Are we going?’ and it’s, ‘Yes, let’s go one more time,” she said.

At Bull Moose, which sells music, movies and games, Jessie Everett said she had gotten up at 3 a.m. to shop for the first time on Black Friday with her husband, Paul.

The two, who were sifting through rows of DVDs, said they were mostly looking for good deals on presents for their kids, but also were taking a little time to shop for what they were interested in.

“He’s a big movie guy, so we’re looking at the deals,” she said.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: k__schoeder


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