SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — A line of humanity, several hundred people long, stretched down the sidewalk in front of Best Buy at the Maine Mall on Thanksgiving night. Folks were queued up in the frigid air all for the sake of a Black Friday bargain.

Just before the clock struck 12 a.m., the doors slid open and a flood of chilled shoppers gushed through the aisles. Cashiers dutifully waited for 12:01 a.m. before ringing up any sales. They had to. It’s the law.

A quirk Maine law requires most big box stores to remain shuttered on major holidays. Thus, they have to wait till the witching hour before they can start the Thanksgiving to Christmas season of retail bliss.

Personal finance website WalletHub reported that this year’s Black Friday discounts aren’t quite as good as those of the last couple of years, with average nationwide discounts of a little more than 37 percent, compared with around 39 percent last year and 40 percent the year before.

WalletHub found that Kohl’s and JC Penney are the retailers with the deepest Black Friday price cuts this year, with average discounts of more than 66 percent. Department store Target offered average discounts of more than 36 percent, in comparison, while Walmart was around 34 percent and Best Buy was at 30 percent for its average price drops.

According to a survey conducted by the finance site, about 62 percent of Americans planned to spend more than $250 on holiday shopping this year. The top items on the wish lists of those surveyed were gift cards, clothes and electronics. But what people seemed to want most of all doesn’t come with an obvious price tag: Around 41 percent said they’d be willing to pay extra money just for some peace and quiet this holiday season.

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Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.