When it comes to Black Friday shopping, Mainers Stacey Ward and Brenda O’Brien don’t mess around.

They started out Thursday afternoon in New Hampshire, because unlike in Maine, retailers there are allowed to open in the afternoon on Thanksgiving. Then they drove back to Maine, took a nap, and hit the stores in South Portland, starting with Target at midnight.

And they were just getting started. Ward, of Hollis, and O’Brien, of Bucksport, said they planned to continue on into the wee hours of the morning.

“It’s our every year tradition,” Ward said. O’Brien added, “Last year, my husband called me at 3 a.m. and said, ‘Where are you?'”

Thousands of Maine shoppers shrugged off the cold and drizzle and headed out to their favorite stores Thursday night and early Friday morning to take advantage of the many Black Friday sales. Meanwhile, retailers said they were stepping up their game this year to better compete with e-commerce sites and each other.

Kehinde Aderibigbe of Portland began his Black Friday marathon much earlier. Standing first in line at Best Buy in South Portland when the doors opened just before midnight, Aderibigbe said he had arrived there at about 10 a.m. Thursday.

He was looking for a 50-inch TV and computer upgrades for himself, along with an Xbox One to give as a wedding gift. Aderibigbe said he has been an early-bird shopper on Black Friday for at least a decade.

“I’ve done this many times,” he said. “I do enjoy it. Sometimes I don’t even get the door-buster deals. I just enjoy being here.”

Maryam Alhamdany, 11, of Portland, sits on the ground swathed in blankets as she waits to get into Best Buy for Black Friday at the Maine Mall.

Maryam Alhamdany, 11, of Portland, sits on the ground swathed in blankets as she waits to get into Best Buy for Black Friday at the Maine Mall.

Total holiday sales revenue in the U.S. is expected to exceed $1 trillion this year, an increase of roughly 4 percent from from the previous November through January, acccording to the 2016 Deloitte Holiday Survey, conducted by the Deloitte University Press in late October. The survey found that consumers remain bullish about the U.S. economy and said their personal financial conditions have continued to improve. Overall spending on gifts is expected to remain similar to 2015, according to Deloitte.

But the increase in online sales is expected to be significant, based on the survey. Deloitte is forecasting a 17 to 19 percent increase in e-commerce sales for the three-month holiday shopping period, an increase of nearly $100 billion. On average, those surveyed said they planned to do about half of their shopping online this holiday season.

The line outside of Best Buy wraps all the way around the building at the Maine Mall just before midnight on Thanksgiving.

The line outside of Best Buy wraps all the way around the building at the Maine Mall just before midnight on Thanksgiving.

Some retailers at The Maine Mall in South Portland said they expanded their sales this year to keep up with the intense competition.

Misha Wagner, manager of Build-a-Bear Workshop inside the mall, said the store decided to offer buy-one-get-one-free deals on every single item in the store, just for the 23-hour period between midnight and 11 p.m. Friday. She was confident the store-wide sale would make Build-a-Bear a contender among all the competition.

“Today, we wanted to make sure we came out with a big bang,” Wagner said.

Another Maine Mall retailer, The Walking Company, was employing a similar strategy. Manager Artemas Foster said the footwear seller expanded its Black Friday sale this year to include more inventory, including the highly popular UGG boots, which it had not placed on sale in previous years.

“We have pretty much all of our boots and slippers on sale right now,” Foster said.

Perhaps the longest line inside The Maine Mall was to get into clothing retailer Pink. The consensus among those in line, primarily teenage girls, was that Pink is expensive, so you have to come out for bargains when you can.

Seventeen-year-old Sarah Gagnon of Waterboro said she was interested in buying “anything that’s on sale” at Pink. Gagnon and her friend, 17-year-old Kylee Jacob of Waterboro, said they arrived at the mall at about 10:45 p.m. Thursday and were pleased to discover that the doors were already open, allowing customers to line up inside where it was warm and dry.

Customers are greeted by Best Buy employees as they walk into the store just after midnight.

Customers are greeted by Best Buy employees as they walk into the store just after midnight.

“If we would have known, we would have got here earlier,” Gagnon said.

At Target, store manager Puneet Mathur said the hundreds of customers who entered the store starting at midnight Friday were upbeat and respectful to one another despite having to wait out in the cold and rain.

“It looks like they’re having fun shopping,” he said. “We’re happy they braved it out and came in.”

By 12:45 a.m., the checkout line at Target snaked up and down the aisles halfway to the rear of the store. Target staff had taped blue arrows at the intersections of aisles to guide the line’s formation in an orderly fashion.

Mathur said the key to a successful Black Friday operation is practice. The retailer has learned a little more each year and adjusted accordingly to make things run more smoothly.

“We get them in and out of here safely and as quickly as possible,” he said.

Foster, manager of The Walking Company, was doing his best to ensure that the long night would be enjoyable for staff as well as customers.

“The crowds can be overwhelming, but I’ve got an awesome team,” he said. “We’ve got a potluck going out back.”

Andrew Moser, of Portland, carries a TV to the checkout line at Best Buy early Friday morning. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Andrew Moser, of Portland, carries a TV to the checkout line at Best Buy early Friday morning. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer


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