SOUTH PORTLAND – Early-bird shoppers were out in force at the Maine Mall in South Portland, which opened its doors at 1 minute after midnight to mark the start of Black Friday. Farther north, the size of the crowds surprised officials at the Bangor Mall.
Shoppers lined up Thursday night and waited for hours for the mall to open so they could take advantage of door-buster sales on electronics and other big-ticket items.
“It’s insanity,” said Brandon York, a nursing home cook from Waterboro, who was hoping to find some bargains but wasn’t in as much of a rush as others in the crowd.
For one popular retailer, pre-dawn shopping is a routine event. L.L. Bean in Freeport is open 24 hours a day year-round. The Freeport Merchants Association and the Kittery Outlets were holding their own midnight shopping events, along with sales and giveaways like gift cards.
At the Maine Mall, the four-year tradition of opening up early was taken a step further this year as doors opened just after midnight instead of 1 a.m. The deal-hungry crowd was entertained by a band playing “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”
“We decided, ‘You know what? 12:01 is the first minute of Black Friday,”‘ said Tami Ivy, senior manager of special projects for General Growth Properties Inc., the mall’s owner.
Mall officials estimated at least 30,000 people came through the doors after the midnight opening of 60 stores. By midmorning Friday, the size of the crown was somewhat smaller, “but it’s a healthy crowd, comparable to last year,” said Anne Bilodeau, who works in the mall office.
While other shoppers swarmed inside the mall, 16-year-old Cady Day and her mother, Claudia Day-Strout of Oxford, were camped outside Best Buy, which was opening at 5 a.m. After arriving at 6:30 p.m., they bundled up in blankets and sat in camping chairs, with board games and pizza boxes near their feet. They were on the hunt for an eMachine desktop computer, on sale for less than half the price they would normally expect to pay.
“If she wants it for Christmas, she can stand in line for it,” Day-Strout said good-naturedly.