As retailers fight for every penny spent by budget-conscious or cash-strapped customers and shoppers struggle to find credit, several chains again are offering buy-over-time plans, experts said.
Layaway allows customers to reserve goods with a down payment and then pay them off during a specified time frame. Walmart, the world's largest retailer, is offering layaway plans this holiday season, as is Sears. Other companies, including Best Buy and T.J. Maxx, offer the service in a limited number of stores, though not at their Rib Mountain locations.
Some consumers are forced to rely on this for a strategy to put things away until they can afford to make payments on it," said Dennis Garrett, a Marquette University marketing professor and expert in retail.
Layaway sometimes is the only option for people who want to get the hottest holiday gifts but don't have cash saved or credit cards, said Cynthia Jasper, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and expert in retail and consumer behavior.
People with credit problems have a method to get goods and put things aside earlier, before all the things are picked over," she said.
Walmart, which has garnered national attention for bringing back layaway, offers the service on electronics and toys, two of the most popular categories each holiday season. A phone message left with Walmart was not immediately returned, but the company recently announced it was offering layaway to provide customers another payment option as the economy struggles to recover.
We know this holiday season in particular brings with it additional financial pressure," Duncan Mac Naughton, Walmart's chief merchandising officer, said in a statement.
But just because layaway is experiencing a temporary resurgence doesn't mean shoppers should proceed without caution. Garrett
said layaway can be costly, especially for people with limited incomes.