By George Anderson
You may remember your parents doing it when you were a kid – choosing a gift for the holidays and then having the store hold onto it until they were able to finish paying for
This method of buying gifts known as a layaway seems like something out of yesteryear and, for the most part, it is. But, as an Associated Press report points out, there
are still some retailers who offer the service.
Most don’t because consumers and retailers prefer that shoppers pay for their merchandise with a credit card and take it straight home.
Retailers that offer a layaway program have to hold onto the merchandise designating space and personnel to take care of it.
Wal-Mart, Kmart, Boscov’s, TJ Maxx and Marshalls are among the retailers that still offer shoppers a layaway alternative.
Russ Colton, store manager of a Wal-Mart in the Lancaster, Penn.-area, said of the program, “It’s a competitive advantage,” adding, “We listen to our customers, and they say
they want it and appreciate it.”
Boscov’s store manager Jack Ziegler said, “We’re more of a traditional department store. We try to keep a customer within our store.”
Most retailers have seen a decline in layaways as consumers use other means of purchase.
Retailer restrictions placed on layaways have also contributed. While stores typically do not charge interest on the purchase of a layaway item, some have begun tagging on a
fee for holding an item as well as levying a charge when a layaway purchase is canceled.
Kmart changed its “price adjustment” policy in a Lancaster-area store and saw a drop off in layaways. Before the change, if an item was discounted during an eight-week period
while it was held on layaway, the store would charge the buyer the sale price. Now, the store will adjust the price if it goes on sale within one week of its initial purchase.
The Wal-Mart managed by Mr. Colton has seen an increase in layaways and has had to add staff to deal with it. He attributes the success of the program to Wal-Mart’s no-risk plan.
The retailer does not charge any fees to make or cancel a purchase.
“There’s nothing to lose,” he said.
Moderator’s Comment: Has the increase in the numbers of people living below and near the poverty level made the conditions right for layaway programs?
Do the numbers of people struggling with credit card debt make it right for layaway programs to be started in other stores serving more middle class consumers? –
George Anderson – Moderator