BANGOR, Maine — Thousands braved frigid temperatures to line up outside Walmart, Best Buy, Target and other major retailers in the city for the annual post-Thanksgiving Black Friday sales, where customers hoped to snag coveted items at low prices.
Parking lots were full and driving was chaotic as people got into line before midnight Thursday. The stores weren’t allowed to open until 12:01 a.m. Friday.
By Friday afternoon, the director of marketing for the Bangor Mall said it was the busiest Black Friday she had seen in five years.
“It has not stopped, usually you get a lull, but there really hasn’t been much of one,” Kim Reid said a little after 3 p.m. This was the second year in which the mall opened at 12:01 a.m. Black Friday.
“We had a line outside of Sears and one outside of [Dick’s Sporting Goods], each with about 100 people,” she said, referring to the extra-early opening.
Things quieted down around 4 a.m., but picked up quickly later in the morning and traffic was steady thereafter, Reid said.
“It’s fantastic,” she said.
Mall security said they did not have any problems with theft, fights, arguments or injuries over the course of the day, unlike what occurred at other shopping venues around the country.
Several hours earlier, Andrea Coy said she drove down from Hartland, New Brunswick, to Walmart in Bangor with several Canadian friends to take advantage of the sales.
“I think we’re going to buy some laptops and TVs and whatever good deals are in there,” said Coy, adding that it was the fifth trip she and her friends have made to Bangor for Black Friday sales.
“It’s crazy because we don’t sleep at all,” she said.
“It’s so much fun,” said Lola Dickinson, who was with Coy and approximately a few hundred other people behind the doors at Walmart. She added that U.S. stores have a better variety of products than Canadian stores.
Aaron McLain of Dover-Foxcroft was first in line along with his wife, Myrtle, at Walmart. He said suffering in the cold for 10 hours was worth it for his 4-month-old son, Alister Samuel.
“I’m proud to do it for our son. I’m getting a lot of baby toys for him. My wife and I had both agreed that we’re going to give him his best first Christmas,” McLain said. “Making him smile is the best thing in my life.”
Some shoppers were making the rounds at several retailers, while others were hoping to grab their one item and head home.
“They have an excellent TV for sale. A 60-inch for under $700. You just can’t get that deal,” said Gary McMurry of Bangor, who was sitting in a folding chair outside Walmart wearing warm clothing.
Cathy Lovejoy of Bangor and her friends had pizza delivered to her spot in line.
“I’ve been doorbusting for 16 years,” said Lovejoy. “I used to get stuff for my daugher. I’ve climbed shelves for pianos, Game Boys, PlayStations, all that.”
Down the road at Best Buy, several customers in line were given a ticket for certain limited items, including a 42-inch television that Justin Fortier of Bangor hoped to pick up.
“We stopped by to see how the stores were, and we saw there was no line,” said Fortier, 22, who arrived at 6 p.m. Thursday. “I didn’t plan to be here. They had a good TV. I figured I’d grab it.”
Ted Robertson of Sussex, New Brunswick, said there were no tickets for the three televisions and three printers he had in his cart. He had to be quick to grab what he wanted, he said.
“It’s a little bit of a challenge. It’s kind of fun,” he said. “You had to go quick to grab them. They had a few there, but there weren’t that many.”
Best Buy sales support manager Paul Gadoury said years of experience have made for smooth shopping for customers.
“Everything’s very orderly. We get better every year,” said Gadoury. “We have our line queuing where we have one line into seven registers. You could be in a line halfway around the store, but you’ll get through in 15 minutes.”
Driving to the stores seemed more hazardous.
All lights around the mall were flashing red or yellow. At least one crash on Interstate 95 was blamed on increased traffic headed to the mall.
“There was a vehicle with a flat tire in the southbound lane and two people stopped to help,” said a Maine State Police dispatcher early Friday morning. “A trooper pulled over to see what was going on, and people in the northbound lane started rubbernecking and someone rear ended another person.”
No injuries were reported, she said.
BDN reporter Nick McCrea contributed to this report.