Why is Wal-Mart really bringing back layaway?

Maria Hoover, SBJ Features Editor

Not long before school started, my 8-year-old daughter reminded me, out of the blue, that Christmas is just a few months away. At the time, I thought, “We’ve got to get ready for back-to-school. Who’s thinking about Christmas?”

As it turns out, in addition to children who are compiling their wish lists, a certain Arkansas-based megaretailer is thinking ahead to Christmas gift-giving and has announced its plans to bring back layaway for certain merchandise.

Wal-Mart dropped its layaway option in 2006, citing at the time a drop in use of the program. The company’s official reason why layaway is returning is that customers and Facebook fans have expressed a desire for the program, and have told the company they need it particularly for the holidays.

“We’re always looking for ways to ease budget strain for our customers, and we know this holiday brings with it additional financial pressure,” Chief Merchandising Officer Duncan Mac Naughton said in a news release announcing the return of layaway.

Really, Wal-Mart? I think I might need to call shenanigans on this “official reason.”
Might other motivating factors not include the reality that several competitors, such as K-Mart and Target, have layaway programs in place? With fiscal 2011 sales of $419 billion, it seems far more feasible to me that what Wal-Mart really wants to do is make sure it’s getting the biggest possible slice of the holiday sales pie.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. My primary reason for celebrating dates back 2,000 years to the divine birth of a baby named Jesus in Bethlehem, but the giving spirit of the holiday is infectious. Like many parents, I enjoy wrapping up some Christmas morning magic for my family – and in my book, avoiding credit card debt is a good thing.

I might even use the program to purchase a few things as Christmas gifts, but I just can’t buy that Wal-Mart is resurrecting its layaway program primarily as a move to help ease financial worries for consumers.

The new Wal-Mart layaway, which will run Oct. 17–Dec. 16, is targeted, in that it’s available for electronics and toys. Eligible items must cost at least $15 apiece, and total layaway purchases must be at least $50. Customers must pay 10 percent down, plus there’s a one-time nonrefundable $5 service fee. There’s also a $10 cancellation fee for orders that aren’t picked up by Dec. 16 or are cancelled by the customer. Oh, and layaway purchases won’t be accepted on Black Friday, the deal-hunting shopping day after Thanksgiving. Having hit a few of those sales, however, I can’t really blame them.

Ah, Christmas. Ready or not, here it comes.


2 Responses to “Why is Wal-Mart really bringing back layaway?”

  1. 1 Amy Koerner September 26, 2011 at 7:04 am

    Finally! We definitely need it.

  2. 2 Piano chord progressions October 11, 2011 at 1:03 am

    My wife and I were talking about this a few weeks ago.We were wondering why they didn’t have a layaway plan and here it goes they bring it back

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