Not many people on Black Friday in Auburn, but retail season should be bright


Nov 26 – AUBURN – Tashia Brown walked two miles to Walmart with her 12-year-old niece on Thursday at 10 p.m. to claim first place in the queue for Black Friday.

They waited for the doors to open at midnight. And waited. And waited.

Around 2 a.m., an employee stuck his head out – they wouldn’t open until 5 a.m.

No matter. Her niece voted to stay and took a nap on the sidewalk.

“I’m a single mom of two, so I’m used to all hours of the night or not sleeping, so it was nothing to me,” said Brown of Auburn, who finished shopping for Christmas for her children when the doors finally opened.

Brown was the diehard exception in Auburn this Black Friday. Queues were scarce with no one in front of Kohl’s or JCPenney half an hour before the late openings, which were at 5 a.m. for the second year in a row. The crowd at Walmart was a shadow of years gone by.

A Kohl employee said the store has a lot of online orders to fill, while a Walmart employee said the old days of Black Friday are a thing of the past.

Auburn Mall was also quiet at 7:30 am

Curtis Picard, president and CEO of the Retail Association of Maine, said retailers of all shapes and sizes have evolved from the traditional Black Friday deal of online advertising for a longer period. and well in advance.

It might keep more crowds chilling at home in 2021, but that shouldn’t cool the season.

The National Retail Federation has forecast holiday sales growth of 8.5% to 10.5% nationwide this year compared to last year.

“This would be the biggest increase to my knowledge and certainly the biggest expected increase in my role with (the) Retail Association of Maine in the past 14 years,” said Picard. “So we definitely expect this to be a strong year above the national average and I hope Maine follows that trend.”

The weather is always a wild card here, he said. “An untimely ice storm, for example, just before Christmas can have a huge impact on last minute shopping that cannot be rescheduled to other dates.”

Picard has started encouraging buyers to start releasing in September with 100 days to go to Christmas due to lingering supply chain issues and worker shortages. He has the impression that people have largely followed this advice.

“Supply chain issues are widespread and important,” he said. “I wish I could identify a specific product or category that is impacted more than others, but it’s really all over the place. In some cases the products are available, but they struggle to find their way on the shelves. stores. Other times it is the lack of raw materials to manufacture the goods. Most often we hear that a retailer may only receive part of an expected order, which makes it difficult to communicate with customers on availability and when restocking may arrive. “

His other tip for next month: If you want it and see it, buy it.

“(There is) no guarantee that it will still be available tomorrow or next week,” Picard said. “Also, continue to be kind to retail workers and other buyers. It’s been a few years since the world has been so stressed. No need to add more. Be kind and remember the true meaning of the holidays. . “

The National Retail Federation’s annual survey found that 66% of holiday shoppers were due to shop on Thanksgiving weekend.

Locally, Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer and Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque encouraged residents to “shop small” during the holidays, proclaiming Saturday November 27 Small Business Saturday to highlight the importance of supporting businesses. independent local businesses.

Specifically for Black Friday, 64% of holiday shoppers nationwide were anticipating their in-store purchases compared to 51% last year.

Auburn’s Mary LaFontaine said she’s headed for Black Friday for about 25 years and this year was no different.

“For me, this is the first day that I start celebrating the Christmas season,” she said. “It’s the first day I allow myself to hear Christmas music, although it has been played for weeks before. It’s the day of the year when the crowds don’t bother me. don’t worry about anything in particular; I let others take what they need and work around them. It’s really not about shopping, even if I’m shopping! It’s really the start of the Christmas season. It’s a treat for myself. “

Some people, however, planned to avoid all shopping on Black Friday. “I’d rather fight the Klingons,” joked Lewiston’s Drew Desjardins.

Lewiston’s Joe Philippon said he watched “The Nightmare Before Christmas” with his child and avoided Christmas shopping, but was unable to avoid the snow ahead.

“Unfortunately, I took the snowblower and the shovels to get ready,” he said.

Brown, who found herself unexpectedly waiting seven hours outside Walmart in Auburn, said keeping a good attitude was key.

It was her niece’s first time shopping for Black Friday and Brown said she was mostly worried that she was too tired or too cold, but she wasn’t fazed.

“She found a nice sweater that she wanted, so I got it for her because she was a troop and she was hanging out in the cold,” she said.

Brown is a regular Black Friday customer and does so every year that she can find an overnight babysitter. She said she felt the deals are better in person.

She and her niece took the city bus home and were already talking about Black Friday plans for next year.

“I told him, it’s a win-win situation: you can plan this closer to the time and then it could be millions of people or you could leave sooner and you just have to hang in there,” Brown said. “You make it a negative situation, then your time and everything is going to be more stressful for you. You stay with a positive attitude, it goes a lot faster.”

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