STRATFORD - Experts predict the recession will hit retailers hard and could make this year the worst holiday shopping season in nearly two decades.

New statistics from America's Research Group indicate a tight spending season. Job losses, the credit crunch and falling home prices are expected to keep shoppers away from stores.

More than 40 percent of people surveyed said they feel guilty spending. Despite discounts being offered by stores to lure in consumers, many people purchasing gifts said they're scaling back.

"We're trying to really, really focus on what the kids really want," said Renee Karl, a shopper at Stratford's Wal-Mart.