Relatively mild temperatures gave Maine retailers a boost as they kicked off the official start of the holiday shopping season with midnight openings on Black Friday.

Thousands of shoppers poured into The Maine Mall in South Portland and darted straight toward their favorite stores to get in line for special Black Friday “door-buster” deals.

Hundreds more were lined up outside Best Buy at midnight, some having arrived as early as 5 a.m. on Thursday. They were seeking deals on HDTVs, laptops, iPads, BluRay movies and video games.

J.R. Watanasiri of Windham was surprised to find at least 500 customers in front of him when he joined the line just before midnight outside Best Buy. He was hoping to purchase a discounted Xbox One video game console but said he probably would end up having to buy one online.

Watanasiri, 18, said curiosity brought him to the mall, but that he wasn’t planning on a repeat appearance next year.

“This is my first time, and probably my last time,” he said.

Inside Best Buy, 20-year-old Ian Nason of Auburn was perusing the video section. “We’re looking at cheap movies,” he said, holding up a title that caught his interest. “I mean, classic! Spaceballs!”

Mall shopper Stanis Moody-Roberts had given up on his plan to procure a limited-quantity, 50-inch HDTV for $150 at Best Buy and was milling around the Microsoft Store checking out Surface tablets.

“The line was too long,” the 26-year-old Portland resident said. “It’s probably all gone. I’ll come back when there’s no line and get whatever TV is on sale.”

The mall was packed with young people by 12:30 a.m. and had the look of an epic high school mixer with some adults scattered here and there to maintain order. The scene was louder than a normal day at the mall, and the voices pitched slightly higher. The scent of fruity lotions and cheap body sprays hung in the air.

“Midnight to 4 is kids,” said mall security officer Jon Bouffard, standing next to fellow guard Jon Williams, both surveying the fast-flowing crowd. To which Williams added, “It’s a good turnout so far.”

Not all stores at the mall opened at midnight Friday. One noticeable non-participant was the Apple Store, which was locked and dimly lit. Others had signs on their doors saying they would open at 5 a.m., around the time the two guards said a lot more grownup shoppers start to show up.

Mason Frazier and Belle Jones, co-owners of handmade jewelry seller Wired Up, were just starting a 22-hour marathon shift operating a kiosk inside the mall. With a target audience of women in their 30s and 40s, things were off to a slow start.

Still, the Black Friday veterans said they were well-prepared for the long hours ahead. “We’re soldiers,” Jones said. “Just don’t mess with us after 22 hours.”

Heading down the road toward Target at 1 a.m., traffic around the mall was roughly equivalent to that of a typical Saturday afternoon. The Target parking lot was nearly full, and some shoppers already were exiting with their carts piled high.

Inside Target, things appeared to be going smoothly for staff, aside from having to locate the occasional lost child.

Store Team Leader Cara Sandberg said the company carefully coordinates the checkout process on Black Friday by using staff to direct customers from a single, snaking line to the next available cashier. It allows cashiers more time with each customer while minimizing the opportunity for conflicts to erupt, Sandberg said.

“There’s no cutting, there’s no fighting,” she said.

Jessica Locke, 38, of Hollis, brought her daughter and a friend to Target but said they weren’t compelled by any desire to nab a particular door-buster deal. They bought mostly pillows, plus a giant stuffed bear, some Tupperware and a box of Q-Tips.

“We just went for the experience,” Locke said. “She’s never been Black Friday shopping before.”

In Kittery, it was quiet in the hours just before sunrise, with pairs and small groups of shoppers checking out deals at outlet stores advertising deep discounts.

It was the calm before the second storm, said store managers as they restocked shelves and took coffee breaks.
“Customers are excited to be here. My employees are excited to be here,” said Amy Powell, manager of the Coach outlet, which opened at 11 p.m. Thursday. “There was a lot of hustle and bustle.”
Sisters Laureda Philippe and Marie Guerrier drove up from Massachusetts to avoid the overly crowded malls closer to home.
“Here it’s quieter and you don’t have people pushing you left and right,” Guerrier said as she looked through a stack of 99-cent jeans at Old Navy.
Sally Albanese of Waltham, Massachusetts, was shopping at Old Navy with her husband, Sal. They arrived at 3 a.m. to avoid the crowds and said they were finding lots of great deals on gifts for their five grandchildren.
At Coach, Debi Gray of Barrington, New Hampshire, was enjoying Black Friday shopping for the first time. She said she was impressed with the sales.
“I would definitely do it again,” she said.
Kathy Akopov, director of marketing for Kittery Premium Outlets, said there were big crowds of shoppers at midnight, including groups of tourists from Canada.
“It’s a really festive atmosphere,” she said.
Joshua Ruff, senior merchandising manager at Old Navy, said the Black Friday rush began on Wednesday, when the store began special sales. There was a long line of customers at midnight and he expected that busy atmosphere to continue through the day.
“From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m we’ll be slamming busy,” he said. “This is the most fun time of year for us.”

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @jcraiganderson

 

 

In Kittery, it was quiet in the hours just before sunrise, with pairs and small groups of shoppers checking out deals at outlet stores advertising deep discounts.
It was the calm before the second storm, said store managers as they restocked shelves and took coffee breaks.
“Customers are excited to be here. My employees are excited to be here,” said Amy Powell, manager of the Coach outlet, which opened at 11 p.m. Thursday. “There was a lot of hustle and bustle.”
Sisters Laureda Philippe and Marie Guerrier drove up from Massachusetts to avoid the overly crowded malls closer to home.
“Here it’s quieter and you don’t have people pushing you left and right,” Guerrier said as she looked through a stack of 99-cent jeans at Old Navy.
Sally Albanese of Waltham, Massachusetts, was shopping at Old Navy with her husband, Sal. They arrived at 3 a.m. to avoid the crowds and said they were finding lots of great deals on gifts for their five grandchildren.
At Coach, Debi Gray of Barrington, New Hampshire, was enjoying Black Friday shopping for the first time. She said she was impressed with the sales.
“I would definitely do it again,” she said.
Kathy Akopov, director of marketing for Kittery Premium Outlets, said there were big crowds of shoppers at midnight, including groups of tourists from Canada.
“It’s a really festive atmosphere,” she said.
Joshua Ruff, senior merchandising manager at Old Navy, said the Black Friday rush began on Wednesday, when the store began special sales. There was a long line of customers at midnight and he expected that busy atmosphere to continue through the day.
“From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m we’ll be slamming busy,” he said. “This is the most fun time of year for us.”

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