Local News

Layaway making a comeback for holiday shopping

Posted November 25, 2009 2:56 p.m. EST

— Economic hard times and a new reluctance to use credit cards are fueling the comeback of an old shopping method: layaway.

Jennifer Phillips, who manages the Toys 'R Us store in Cary, said that layaway is increasingly popular among customers who are being more careful with their money in the down economy.

"They don't want to open a credit card, they don't want to put another mortgage on their house, so layaway is a different option," Phillips said.

So far, Phillips said, she's been surprised by the number of customers who have signed up for layaway.

Generally, layaway allows customers to reserve items with a down payment, plus a fee. They must pay off those items by a certain date to take them home.

Stores' layaway policies differ in some aspects. For example, at Toys 'R Us, only big-ticket items qualify. A Barbie couldn't be put on layaway, but a bike could.

K-Mart has long had a layaway program, but added an online component to meet increased demand this year.

"You can actually go online and put merchandise online through our layaway program," said Brad Winkler, who manages the K-Mart store on Six Forks Road in Raleigh. "So far this year, we've seen an increase in layaway of at least 20 to 25 percent."

Winkler said that customers like the flexibility to pay every two weeks at K-Mart.

Before putting an item on layaway, customers should make sure they are able to finish paying for it. Both K-Mart and Toys 'R Us charge fees to cancel.

The Better Business Bureau warns shoppers to carefully read each store's layaway policy and ask questions about penalties for missed payments and how to get better price if the item goes on sale.

Many stores also have restrictions on when items must be paid in full.