Lack of participation by several major retailers didn’t stop thousands of shoppers from staying up late to snag limited-time-only bargains at Black Friday midnight openings across southern Maine.

The move by some retailers to open at 6 a.m. this year instead of midnight to spare workers and reduce overhead did lead to a bit of confusion, as evidenced by a slow procession of vehicles passing in front of Target in South Portland and then driving away. Target was among retailers that opened at midnight in previous years but opted for a 6 a.m. opening today.

In the last minutes before the store opened, 10-year-old Deshawn Lamour bounced anxiously on his tip toes and rubbed his gloved hands together to stay warm.

The Portland boy was the first in line and intended to leave with a $250 55-inch television he had saved up for. He and his mother, Melynda Dunlap, arrived at 10 p.m. Thursday.

“It was a lot of fun,” Lamour said of the overnight in line, which included side trips to nearby stores to shop and warm up. “A lot of people left the (Target) line because it opens at 6 a.m.”

The later opening time caught some shoppers off guard but gave them time to hunt for deals elsewhere before coming back.

“I’m already waiting in one line for three hours and now I’m waiting in another for three hours,” said Carol Rickett of Portland, who was shopping at Target with her son, Daniel Hill.

They had already been to Walmart for a quick 20-minute stop, but encountered long lines at Kohl’s.

“It was a nightmare,” Rickett said with a laugh. “You do it for the kids.”

Mike Martel of Lewiston arrived at the mall around 5:45 a.m. with his sister, Kathy Bilier, and niece Lynn Carmichael. They shop together at the mall every Black Friday and were surprised by the lack of large crowds this year.

“We think Amazon has kind of killed Black Friday,” Bilier said.

“This is nothing,” Martel added. “This is like a Saturday morning. I remember times you couldn’t move in here.”

Carmichael, who carried several shopping bags, said she was able to find lots of gifts for people, even though she didn’t come with specific items in mind.

“But I ordered stuff from Amazon while I was in the mall today,” she said.

Nycole Nadeau of Brunswick sipped coffee while standing behind her display of LipSense by Senegence products. She and several other local vendors were selling products as part of a three-day holiday event organized by Maine Supporting Maine.

Nadeau said the mall was crowded at midnight, but there were lots of teenagers and people headed straight for doorbuster sales.

“I’m usually a Black Friday shopper so I know how it is,” she said.

Nadeau said she expects interest in her products to pick up as more shoppers arrive throughout the weekend.

Wendy Clarke of Westbrook showed up at Target at 11:30 p.m., but headed home to rest when she realized the store didn’t open until later. She returned at 4:30 a.m. and found herself relatively close to the front of the line, which only grew long enough to wrap around the side of the building in the 15 minutes before it opened.

Within 5 minutes of the doors opening, there were no shopping carts left for customers inside the store. A steady line of customers still flowed through the front door as the first shoppers left with large screen TVs and an oversized teddy bear.

By far the biggest draw for shoppers was electronics seller Best Buy, which had hundreds lined up outside before it midnight opening time, hoping to land a “door-buster” deal.

The most dedicated Best Buy shoppers were Solomon Benami and his friend Jackson Cochrane, both 15-year-olds from Saco, who literally camped out at the front of the line, tent and all.

“We got here Wednesday at 2 p.m.,” Benami said. “It’s been cold, definitely cold, and raining.”

The friends said they played card games, listened to music and pushed each other around in shopping carts to pass the time while they waited for the store to open. They even took a nap in the tent.

Both Benami and Cochrane were after the same deal: a 50-inch, 4K ultra-high-definition smart TV made by Sharp for $179.

Benami had intended to surprise his parents with the TV, but it didn’t take them long to wonder where their son was and call him up.

So they decided to bring food and keep him company while he waited in line.

“I missed him being home,” said Benami’s mother, Edna Benami. “I was like, ‘Let’s go check on him.’”

As midnight approached, the scene grew increasingly loud and chaotic inside the mall. Excluding the Best Buy line outside, teens comprised at least 80 percent of the mall crowd, with a scattering of semi-reluctant parents in tow.

“I’m here for Amanda, my daughter,” said Gorham Resident Sheila Richardson. “She spends all Thanksgiving making a (Black Friday) plan. She’s putting the first load into the car right now.”

Stores that appeal to teens attracted the biggest crowds, including clothing store Pink and videogame seller Game Stop. Some of the other merchants didn’t seem to be doing much business at all despite the mall being packed.

“The adults will come out tomorrow,” said Damian Michael, who was operating a LuLaRoe women’s clothing kiosk inside the mall with his wife, Erica Michael.

The couple said they started setting up Thursday afternoon and were planning to work a 24-hour shift until some friends come in to relieve them Friday afternoon.

“We actually got a hotel room right across the street, so that makes it easy for us,” Damian Michael said. “We’re here through Sunday, so we’re hoping for a good weekend overall.”

Prakash Sethia of Scarborough was pulling double duty inside the mall, manning two adjacent kiosks simultaneously. Given the high concentration of teens at midnight, he wasn’t expecting many sales from his kiosk of handmade jewelry boxes, candle stands, copper cups and other products imported from India.

Luckily, Sethia’s other booth was packed with all manner of toys, including remote-controlled cars, helicopter drones and other high-tech gadgets.

“We’re hoping for business to really boom,” he said. “So far it’s going great.”

Some of the adult mall-goers seemed to be surveying the chaotic scene with a tinge of unease, including Oxford resident Ryan LaVerdiere, who said he was only there because a friend of his wanted to go.

“This might have been the last thing I thought I’d ever do,” he said.

When asked if there was anything in particular he was looking for at the mall, LaVerdiere replied, “Just the exit.”

Twenty miles north in Freeport’s downtown shopping district, foot traffic was lighter than at the mall but seemed to contain a higher concentration of hardcore shoppers. People of all ages were moving from store to store, many of them laden with multiple shopping bags.

“We came to Freeport because the (South) Portland mall wasn’t open yet,” said Lewiston resident Jonathan Poulin, who was there shopping with his sister, Trisha Poulin of South Portland.

Freeport is home to outdoor retailer L.L. Bean, one of the only major retailers in Maine that is exempt from the state’s “blue law” prohibiting most stores from being open on Thanksgiving. L.L. Bean is a 24/7/365 operation that never closes. About a dozen other Freeport retailers, mostly clothing and accessories stores, opened at midnight on Black Friday.

Early Friday morning, the Poulin siblings hit some clothing stores in Freeport before calling it a night.

“I have to work at like 5 a.m.,” Jonathan Poulin said.

A few hundred people line up outside of Best Buy in the Maine Mall just before midnight on Black Friday. (Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald)

Yousef, 5, lets out a yawn as he waits for his mother to finish shopping at Best Buy in the Maine Mall just after midnight on Black Friday. (Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald)

A kiosk mirror reflects Black Friday shoppers carrying their purchases at the Maine Mall early Friday morning. (Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald)

Shoppers enter Best Buy at the Maine Mall just after midnight on Black Friday. (Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald)


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