Need holiday help? Try layaway

October 22, 2009 3:19:13 PM PDT
Good, old-fashioned layaway plans are back and being offered by increasingly more retailers.With the holiday season right around the corner, stores think this can be a great way to shop this holiday season.

Layaway plans went away as consumers increased the amount of credit card purchases. But with the credit crunch hitting most homes, layaway is making a comeback, giving new consumers some old options this holiday season.

There may be 64 shopping days until Christmas, but Benessa Hernandez is not waiting to shop for her three children.

"I'm taking my time, checking prices and see what I can find," she said.

This year, Hernandez is not putting a single purchase on her credit cards. She has opted instead to put her Christmas gifts on layaway.

"I can pay a little bit here and a little bit there, and I can focus more on paying my monthly bills," she said. "That will help me."

For shoppers who have never tried it, layaway means shoppers get to select and hold merchandise without paying for all of it up front. The items remain at the store, with a deposit, and you do not get the items until they are completely paid off.

There is no finance charge, but in most cases there is a $5-$10 service charge, and a deposit of 10-20 percent is required as a down payment. You must pay off your items in a certain time period, usually 60-90 days.

"I don't know -- I've never really experienced it personally before," shopper Katy Salazar said.

Salazar said she didn't really know what layaway was, but now she may consider it.

"Everyone is counting every penny," she said. "You don't just swipe (a card) and assume everything's OK."

Marshall's offers layaway on clothing, purses, shoes, house ware, furniture and toys -- basically everything, except for items on clearance. Toys-R-Us just announced a layaway program for big-gift items like play kitchens, dollhouses, bikes, battery-powered vehicles and furniture.

"I think it's a great idea, especially for the holiday season coming up," shopper Christy Hartman said. "You can start the day after Halloween, get it all together and put it on layaway, and not have to worry about your kids opening the trunk to try and find the toys."

Sears brought back its "Shop now, Pay later" layaway program last year right before the holidays. Store officials expect this year that the program will be even more popular, especially since you can layaway your purchases online.

Currently, there are eight local retailers offering some type of layaway programs: Big Lots (for furniture only), Burlington Coat Factory, Dress Barn, Marshall's, Sears, TJ Maxx, Toys-R-Us and Walmart (for jewelry only). Customers will need to contact the local store to learn more details.

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