AUGUSTA — Amy Thurston and her sister Shannon Thurston, both of Winslow, had been first in line at Kohl’s at 6:50 p.m., waiting for doors to open.

At midnight, they were the first in the store as hundreds of other Black Friday shoppers searched for deals at the start of the holiday shopping season. The Thurston sisters bought bedding, a vacuum and other items and were back out the doors in under 10 minutes, around 12:08 a.m. They said that they planned to hit some other stores in the Marketplace at Augusta next.

Amy Thurston said she was excited to buy Cuddl Duds sheets, which normally retail for about $110 but were on sale for $28.

“They’re awesome, nice and warm,” Amy Thurston said. “They’re cute.”

Temperatures hovered right around the 33-degree freezing mark midnight as bundled-up shoppers across central Maine entered stores looking for deals.

Over at Crossing Way, Chris Turner, of Gardiner, was first in line at Best Buy for the sixth straight year. He got to the store at 8 a.m. Thursday, which is late by his measure. The next Black Friday shopper, he said, came at 10:30 a.m.

“This weather is keeping everybody home until later,” he said just before midnight. “I don’t leave when I get here.”

Turner, who brought a heater to keep people in line warm, said he was in the market for a 70-inch television this year, which would cost him $549.

“The best time to get the stuff you need is Black Friday,” he said.

Over at Fortin’s Home Furnishings in Winslow, manager Michelle Nadeau said at 10:30 a.m. that the business has been busy since it opened at 8 a.m. She said shoppers were keying in on appliance packages, which are heavily rebated by the manufacturers for Black Friday.

“We didn’t have a line, but people pulled in right at 8 when we opened,” she said. “It’s going excellent.”

National forecasts call for a solid, although not spectacular, holiday shopping season, which is traditionally launched with Black Friday sales.

Bain & Co., an international marketing firm, forecasts sales to grow 3.8% from last year, just a tick below the five-year average increase of 3.9%. But a major part of that growth will be e-commerce and mail-order sales, which Bain forecasts will grow by 15% over last year. In-store sales are expected to grow by a slower 1.6%, Bain said, although that’s a bit above the sales increase of 1.3% from 2017 to 2018.

More than a third of the stores in the Maine Mall in South Portland opened at midnight, when long lines formed in front of Best Buy. By the time the rest of the stores opened at 6 a.m., Molly Wichenbach and her son David were running out of steam. They drove down to South Portland from Jefferson to shop — a special request from David, who was celebrating his 13th birthday.

“It hasn’t been that busy today. We haven’t seen any lines anywhere we’ve been,” Wichenbach said as she and her son lounged on a bench next to the carousel, which was lit up but sat still waiting for riders.

In Waterville, holiday music filled the downtown area as shoppers made their way through local businesses and restaurants. Workers at some of the businesses say although it looks like a low turnout, sales are higher than a normal shopping day.

Linda Drouin, who works at Maine Made, says that sales have been steady since their 9 a.m. opening; their sale of 20% off, ran until noontime. Located on the Concourse, the store sells novelty items, including mugs, clothing and calendars.

“It’s my first Black Friday working here and it’s going really well,” Drouin said.

Down the road on Main Street, Black Cape Comics was seeing an influx of customers arriving shortly after opening.

“We’re doing really well here,” said Brandon Bradbury, a sales associate. Though the business was open on Black Friday last year, associates were still working to get the store functioning, so they did not fully participate in sales.

This year, the comic store is selling bins of comics for $1, which is bringing a lot of shoppers in.

“The black bin sale is really popular today,” Bradbury said. “We’re also having sales on figurines throughout the day.”

Jim DeLorenzo, a jeweler at L. Tardif Jeweler, said that turnout is low, but expected at their business.

“We’ve been busy for the past three weeks,” DeLorenzo said. “We have not had many people show up today, but we weren’t expecting a huge amount. We are usually busy the two weeks before Christmas.”

 

Portland Press Herald staff writer Gillian Graham and Kennebec Journal photographer Joe Phelan contributed reporting. 


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