On the last day of shopping before Christmas, emotions were mixed at the malls.
"I just got a job so I did a lot more shopping this year than last year," said Katerli Batista while doing some last minute shopping in what to many is the capitol of gift buying, the mall-heavy town of Paramus just a few miles from the George Washington Bridge.
At the Westfield Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus officials report more than three million visitors so far this year, up somewhat from last year's recession-heavy numbers.
Certainly her boyfriend sounded hopeful about the year ahead. "I think pretty soon [companies]'ll be hiring more people so I think the economy is getting better. I'm optimistic," said Cesar Garrido.
For merchants worried about last weekend's Super Saturday snowstorm, which discouraged many consumers on the biggest shopping day of the year, there's an added anxiety. Shoppers like Daphna Buchbut of Cresskill, NJ say the Great Recession has changed their buying habits.
Buchbut has two young girls. aged 7 and 9, but she said "I feel we need to buy less. We don't need all that we used to buy."
The good news for the nation's stores, however, is that the big post-Christmas Sale Day comes on Saturday this year, the best day of the week to get the most shoppers in the front door. And already reports show many merchants will be offering deep discounts this weekend, with some sales starting on-line on Christmas Day.
It all adds up to a lot of mixed messages for consumers. And Marise Brito of Rochelle Park, NJ may typify the confusion best. When asked if she thought the economy was improving, she replied, "I really can't say. I don't know. I know I'm hoping it gets better."