SOUTH PORTLAND — The McGee family hit the Maine Mall twice to prepare for Christmas.

They made their first shopping trip on Black Friday. Then they came back for the last-minute deals on the Saturday before Christmas.

“I think the parking lot is worse than it was on Black Friday,” Ken McGee of Newfield said. “We had to park way in the back.”

Last year, a retail group found that Maine retailers had their highest sales on Dec. 23, followed by Black Friday (Nov. 25) and then Small Business Saturday (Nov. 26). The study, by San Francisco-based merchant technology firm Womply Inc., studied 450 retailers in the state.

In fact, last December was a record in general merchandise sales in Maine – nearly $410 million. It was the busiest retail month in the last 10 years, according to data from Maine Revenue Services, the state tax agency. And 2017 is stacking up to be a strong year as well. As of September, general merchandise sales for the year were running about 5 percent ahead of sales in 2016.

Despite freezing rain and icy conditions, last-minute shoppers were on the roads Saturday – two days before Christmas – and the McGees weren’t alone at the mall, which was packed.


McGee and his 14-year-old daughter, Zoe, sat on a bench to rest with their bags. Zoe carefully counted the remaining cash in her hand. She had just picked out a glittery backpack for her 9-year-old sister, who was in another store with their mom.

“You’ve got to separate or you can’t hide anything,” her dad said.

In the food court, Jason Blake of South Portland fueled up for his shopping trip with an Arby’s sandwich. His wife does most of the Christmas shopping, he said, but someone still needs to buy for her. So he and his 11-year-old son, Corey, planned to pick up her presents Saturday at J.C. Penney and Sears.

“He helps me with the colors,” Blake said of his son.

Mark King and Pam Green came to the mall from Biddeford to shop for their daughters – six girls between the two of them, ranging in age from 8 to 18. They had already been to clothing stores like the Children’s Place and Aeropostale. So they stopped at Claire’s, which sells jewelry and accessories. King held a sequined stuffed unicorn in his hands as they browsed the earrings.

“She’s a planner,” King said, nodding at Green. “I’m a last-minute shopper.”


Barbara Philbrook of North Berwick was in the Portland area with her daughter, her son-in-law and her two granddaughters. The family took 5-year-old Emma and 2-year-old Adelaide to see the Disney On Ice show, “Frozen,” at the Cross Insurance Arena. The family told the girls they were stopping at the Maine Mall for a snack before the drive home. But while the girls slurped milkshakes from Johnny Rockets in the Food Court, Philbrook and her daughter Melissa Gagne of Rochester, New Hampshire, planned to make one last surreptitious shopping trip.

Philbrook eyed her granddaughters in their princess dresses and held her hand up to hide her mouth.

“Build-A-Bear,” she whispered.

Meanwhile, people who did their holiday shopping early at Springer’s Jewelers might be rewarded this year – if the weather cooperates.

If 6 inches of snow falls at the company’s Portsmouth, New Hampshire, store on Christmas Day, all in-store purchases of jewelry at the company’s three stores between Nov. 24 and Dec. 9 will be refunded.

“There’s a lot of buzz about this,” said Frank Barry, manager of the Portland store. The company, which also has a store in Bath, has never paid out in 11 years of running the “Let it Snow” promotion, he said.


This year, it might: The National Weather Service is predicting snowfall of 3 to 7 inches for Portsmouth on Monday.

Barry said there were 400 customers who bought less than $1 million worth of jewelry who would get refunds. The company is insured for the event, so it would not lose revenue if it has to refund the purchases, he said.

“We want this to happen,” he said. “We’re all doing the snow dance.”

Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher contributed to this report.


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