(Reuters) Teenager Fanta Bagayoko personifies U.S. retailers’ worst nightmare this back-to-school season.

“I feel like the economy is messed up,” the 18-year-old said while shopping at a Walmart in New Jersey, for herself and her niece. “Money wise, I still feel like we are in a recession.”

It has been more than three years since the official end of the brutal U.S. recession, but Bagayoko and several other U.S. shoppers said they are not feeling better about the economy or their own finances, and are spending only on essential items.

That does not bode well for U.S. retailers that are hoping for a much-needed sales boost after posting lackluster results in the first half of the year. Back-to-school is the second-biggest selling time of the year for U.S. retailers, behind the winter holiday season.

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