Stores start holiday sales early, but shoppers aren't buying

There is some debate about whether holiday sales will be up down or flat this year, but one thing is for sure: the annual tug of war between stores trying to entice shoppers to buy early and customers holding out for markdowns is underway.

Stores have warned they've cut back inventory and they will be laying out sales early in the season, starting with the traditional Black Friday sales on the day after Thanksgiving. But polls say shoppers will be even tighter with the buck this holiday than last year.

"This game of chicken is going to challenge retailers for eternity," said Ellen Davis, vice president of the National Retail Federation, which forecasts sales will be down one percent this holiday below last year.