AUGUSTA — Christopher Robin Turner spent Thanksgiving in the same place he has the last several years — at the front of the line at Best Buy in Augusta.

Turner, of Gardiner, got to Best Buy around 7 a.m. Thursday and spent the next 17 hours staying warm, eating snacks and waiting to be the first inside to score big deals on electronics, video games and movies.

“I like going shopping on Black Friday, and I have fun doing it,” Turner said a little before midnight. “I have a really huge chair and a sleeping bag.”

Turner, a disabled veteran, said he ate chips, granola bars and part of an Italian sandwich with meat “that looked kind of gray.” He said he was planning to buy some video games and a 49-inch Toshiba 4K Ultra HD television, which was on sale for $199.99.

But Best Buy general manager Bryan Lindsey said when Turner got into the store, he decided he didn’t really need the TV, so he gave his ticket to a woman who really wanted the television.

“It was very kind-hearted,” Lindsey said.

Store managers from around Augusta reported long lines and no incidents as the holiday shopping season began just after midnight Friday.

Lindsey said he stopped counting the line at Best Buy when he got to 500. To help keep checkout lines short, Lindsey made the decision to limit entry to the store to 25 shoppers per minute until the outdoor line shortened.

“It’s helps alleviate the pressure and helps control the traffic flow,” Lindsey said. “We get a whole playbook, which is the minimum expectation, but then we customize our plans for our location to make it the best and safest experience for employee and customer. “

The Best Buy store in Topsham closed last month, and Lindsey said he met several people in line who were first-time shoppers in the Augusta store. He said he doesn’t have specific data, but he thinks the store has had more traffic since the Topsham store closed.

Lindsey said he had 50 employees working to handle the large crowd when the store opened at midnight, but he sent most of them home by 4 a.m. because of an expected lull in shopper traffic.

“They’ll get eight hours of rest and then come back, because we are open (until 10 p.m.),” he said.

Up the hill from Best Buy, Target store team leader Randy Reynolds said around 30 people were in line when he arrived at the store at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. By midnight, the line wrapped around the store and had “around 850 people, which was less than the about 1,100 we had last year.”

Reynolds said the store was able to process those in line by about 2 a.m., which was quicker than last year. He was pleased with the results.

“We’re selling a lot of products and people have been pretty happy,” he said.

One place where there was more traffic than last year was at Kohl’s, one exit north on Interstate 95 from Best Buy and Target, at the Marketplace at Augusta.

Store manager Tricia Carr said more customers showed up when the store opened Friday morning than the 1,500 people who were in line last year. Carr said things went more smoothly than she expected because of decisions she made to do things differently.

“Where I stationed certain people (helped), and I empowered more people to help the customer,” Carr said. “There was just a lot more ease this year.”

The big items at Kohl’s this year, Carr said, were TVs, drones, cameras, blankets and comforters.

“It was awesome to see electronics and domestics this year,” Carr said. “It was nice watching them all go.”

The Marketplace at Augusta hosted its annual all-night Rock the Night Away event, which ran from midnight until 5 a.m. The event included live entertainment, special giveaways, photo opportunities with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, and several food options.

Ellyne Fleshner, a regional director of field marketing and management for the Marketplace’s management company, said she met people from across Maine, Canada, New York and Vermont who came to Augusta to shop.

“You can have a good time while you go shopping,” Fleshner said. “It’s a wonderful thing that people can put everything aside and not worry about the other things they are thinking about. People are happy to be here, and it brought out the magic of the holiday season.”

Lindsey, Reynolds and Carr all expected steady crowds throughout the remainder of Friday. Around 9 a.m. Friday, Kohl’s had lines on each side of the store with more than 50 people in each, some who had been waiting for more than 30 minutes.

“We still had long lines at about 5 and 5:30, and then there was a lull, but it’s picking back up again,” Carr said.

According to a Bankrate survey, just 23 percent of American adults planned to shop in stores on Black Friday, which is down from 28 percent in 2014. Just 15 percent of Americans said they would shop on Thanksgiving Day, while 53 percent said they wouldn’t shop at all on Thanksgiving, Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Reynolds said online shopping is a major reason why some stores could experience a decrease in holiday shopping traffic. He said Target, as a company, has been really pushing online sales.

“We’ve had a lot of online orders come to our stores,” he said, and Target has been offering deals on certain products all month, like many other retailers.

Staff photographer Joe Phelan contributed to this report.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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