For months, Kristen Ballentyne has been getting ready for the Christmas holidays, and she’s not done yet.

“We’re still getting in a lot of seasonal stuff, and we’re still doing toy orders,” Ballentyne said, “but we’ll have plenty to sell.”

At Hussey’s General Store, which her great-grandfather Harland Hussey opened in 1923 in Windsor, employees spend weekdays stocking shelves for the waves of shoppers that will come through the doors during the holiday shopping season.

Thursday kicks off the holiday shopping season in earnest in central Maine and across the country. For weeks, local stores and national chains alike have been stocking up on in-demand items such as electronics and toys, clothes and sports equipment.

And people are expected to respond.

The National Retail Federation, which bills itself as the world’s largest retail trade association, anticipates that more than 164 million people plan to shop over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, which includes Cyber Monday, when online retailers have lined up deals to entice shoppers who prefer pointing and clicking to parking and hauling.

In a survey of those planning to shop, released by the NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics, 21 percent plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day, and 71 percent will shop on Black Friday. Saturday, which has been branded as Small Business Saturday, is expected to draw out 78 percent of shoppers — particularly those who say they will support local businesses. Sunday will be a day rest for some, with only 20 percent saying they plan to shop. On Monday, the final day of the extended shopping weekend, 46 percent are expected to scour the internet for deals.

In Augusta, the Marketplace at Augusta plans an annual shopping event. Rock the Night Away starts at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving and ends at 5 a.m. Friday.

Dawn Vigue sets a display of sequined Santa Claus hats and other Christmas items Wednesday at Hussey’s General Store in Windsor. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Organizers bring in entertainment such as Victorian carolers, a DJ and a light show; food trucks and a selfie wall for photo opportunities with Santa and Mrs. Claus and other holiday characters will be available. And radio stations are planning promotions and giveaways.

That’s in addition to the national retailers that will open at midnight and stage their own promotions to entice shoppers.

Ellyne Fleshner, director of Regional Marketing for WS Development, said people come to the event for the partylike experience. WS Development operates the outdoor shopping mall.

“There’s three areas people come from,” she said. “The primary area, that’s about 50 miles.

“The next area the event draws from is the whole state,” Fleshner added. “Then there’s a lot of people who come from New York and Vermont and from across the border in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.”

Black Friday promotions aren’t limited to those national retailers at the Marketplace. And while the lure of bargains and camaraderie will draw people to Augusta, some probably will make their way to Hussey’s, just about a dozen miles away.

“On Black Friday, people are tuckered out,” Ballentyne said. “We get more business in the evening when people are on their way home.”

Starting about this time of year, traffic to the general store tends to pick up on weekends, so staff members spend weekdays stocking inventory to free up time on weekends for customer service when the shoppers are there.

“We have done some expanding. We have a nice gift department; we didn’t always have that,” Ballentyne said. “We pack in a lot of goodies for the kids.”

Hussey’s also plans holiday events in the store, with carolers and appearances by Santa Claus.

“It’s fun to be a part of that,” Ballentyne said. “I think we still have that special spark being one of the big kind of general stores like this. We lure people in have shoppers regardless of what the big box stores do.”

Dawn Vigue sets a display of sequined Santa Claus hats and other Christmas items Wednesday at Hussey’s General Store in Windsor. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

This year, the start of the shopping season will be accompanied by a blast of arctic air that will keep the temperature below the freezing mark.

Neither Ballentyne nor Fleshner expects that to keep shoppers away. In their experience, the weather won’t be an obstacle.

“A few years ago, there was a really bad ice storm, and it was an Olympic ice skating rink,” Fleshner said. “It didn’t stop anybody. People are loyal to the idea of attendance, and they are very determined.”

This year, the Marketplace will be giving away hand warmers, ear muffs, scarves and gloves to help people beat the cold, as well as blankets, hot refreshments and snacks, among other things. A mobile warming center also will be available.

Ballentyne said her daughter already has had two snow days this school year, and it’s not even December.

While bad weather can slow people down, they are adventurous.

“We’ve lost power here before, and we helped people shop with flashlights,” Ballentyne said. “We stay open and try to make it work, regardless.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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