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"Some places seem to be really packed, while others places are really quiet," said shopper Jodie Moseley.
But nearly everyone is cutting back.
"Last year I didn't really have any limits to spending, but this year I find myself looking for bargains," said shopper Andre Cablayan.
"We started earlier this year to spread out the shopping over time. We are only getting the essentials," said shopper Emily Mallett.
And buying only the essentials has made a big difference for most stores.
In August, back-to-school sales for Target were down 2.9 percent. Gap dropped 3 percent and JCPenny fell 4.8 percent.
On the other hand Khol's sales were up 4 percent. TJMaxx was up 5 percent and ROSS saw a 6 percent jump.
One of the reasons for the increase in sales: discounts.
"A lot of stores are offering great deal. It is allowing people to shop a lot more," said shopper Janelle Sagen.
Economists believe that consumers will continue to spend conservatively. It's not a good sign for the holidays, but some shoppers say they are continuing to spend despite the economic downturn.