Stacy Smart, center, takes a selfie Friday with Emma Madore and Lily Smart outside Kohl’s in Augusta at 4:41 a.m. They were the second group in line for the 5 a.m. opening. The first group in the line had gotten there at 4:15 a.m. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Stacy Smart gave her “Black Friday spiel” to Lily Smart and Emma Madore on their way to Kohl’s on Friday morning, but to their surprise once they got there, they were the first couple of people in line for the doorbuster deals.

“We have been doing this for years,” Stacy Smart said. “… To be third, fourth and fifth in line, it’s unheard of.”

Smart said part of her spiel is to be patient and to not get upset when they have to wait in line, but neither of those factors seemed like they would be an issue this year.

It is the second year in a row stores opened at 5 a.m. Friday instead of midnight. What would have been lines wrapped around stores, all the way down the sidewalks, has turned into only around a dozen or so people in line.

Last year saw most people staying at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it seemed to be the case for this year, too.

Smart and the young girls traveled to the Augusta Kohl’s from Sidney and got in line a little after 4:25 a.m. to be there when the doors opened at 5 a.m.

They were looking for deals on sheets, pots and pans, and blankets, which is on par with what they usually come looking for. Smart and her daughter Lily came out last year too, but said even though it was the start of the pandemic, there were still more people in line than there were this year.

“I wasn’t expecting this at all,” Smart said. “I was definitely expecting more people.”

In front of the Smarts and Madore were Brittney Porter and Cameron Estrella, first in line at Kohl’s. They drove down from Rumford to get in line at 4:15 a.m.

The big ticket item for the pair was a blanket from Cuddledown, which was on sale for 70% off. They were surprised to be first in line despite getting there so close to when doors opened.

“After Thanksgiving dinner, we slept for a couple of hours,” said Estrella. “People have been in cars since we got here.”

Best Buy usually has a line down the sidewalk, but it only had a few people in line this year. The two in front were Pandora Thing and Ellie Renta.

Thing works from home and decided to downgrade her four computers to one, so she was in the market to buy new hardware, keyboard and other accessories for the computer. They got in line at 2:40 a.m. and drove from Skowhegan.

Pandora Thing, left, and Ellie Rentas sit outside Best Buy in Augusta at 4:09 a.m. The pair said they’d arrived at 2:40 a.m. Thing said that the crowds this year were smaller than in previous years when stores would open at midnight. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Over at Walmart, Rick Courtney drove from Fairfield at 3 a.m. and after waiting in his car for half an hour, was first in line at 3:45 a.m.

Courtney contributed the smaller lines to “prices going up” and said his family has saved for a couple of months in order to buy Christmas presents for the family.

Items on his list included a laptop and a PlayStation 5, which was a big ticket item last year. Courtney said the gaming system is only available online for the most part and in some cases, is being resold on Facebook for more than the market value of $599. Walmart advertised a sale on most of its electronics.

He was happy his wait time to get into the store wouldn’t be as long as it was in years past on Black Friday.

“Not too long in wait time in comparison to other years and not as many people,” he said. “It’s first thing in the morning, but still not a lot of people.”

Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping weekend and Small Business Saturday is the next day.

Gardiner Main Street is hosting a Small Business Saturday event, as is Skowhegan and Waterville.

Photographer Joe Phelan contributed reporting.

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