Albertans may be tightening their belts during the recession, but they are still spending — with many just being more conservative in their purchases.

"We've been open 28 years so I'd say this is our fourth recession that we've seen now go through Calgary," says Lisa Freno, who owns Primitive Culture in Mount Royal village.

The high-end women's clothing store started to see a change in spending in December.

"People were being more particular about what they wanted to buy... and sort of holding their cash a bit more," Freno said.

Albertans have traditionally been big spenders.

Lisa Freno Primitive Culture Mount Royal

Lisa Freno says customers are holding onto their cash a bit more these days. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

According to Statistics Canada, Alberta households spent more on goods and services than anyone else in the country in 2014.

In fact, we spent roughly 21 per cent more than the Canadian average.

"Things have changed," said Todd Hirsch, chief economist with ATB Financial.

He says retail sales have already dropped about five per cent from a year ago.

"That will have a big impact on spending, particularly the discretionary spending — the toys, the clothes, the jewelry. Those types of things will be curtailed."

But Hirsch says this will by no means be a collapse.

With 92 per cent of Albertans still employed, he expects spending in this province to remain at or above the Canadian average even in this downturn.