Some shoppers have turned away from their buy-now-pay-later habits and are embracing layaway programs that have returned into the mainstream.
"I don't have to worry about January getting here and saying, 'What did I do?"' Jessica Rivas said while shopping at a Georgia Kmart. "This is not like a credit card."
Luring shoppers reluctant to spend in the recession has been a prime objective of retailers offering layaway. Stores are seeing big-ticket items such as expensive toys, video game systems, cribs and costly attire put in layaway.
What's required: Kmart requires a $5 nonrefundable service fee along with an initial payment of $10 to $15, or 10 percent of the purchase price, whichever is greater. That is followed by payments every two weeks over an eight-week period. Other large retailers such as Sears, Toys "'R" Us and Burlington Coat Factory have varying payment stipulations.
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Layaway online: Kmart and Sears, both owned by Sears Holdings, are offering for the first time online layaway. Merchandise can be put on layaway online and items can be retrieved at any of the stores' locations. There are also independent Web sites such as eLayaway.com and Lay-Away.com in which items can be purchased from stores that don't have their own programs. There also are layaway sites for travel and concert tickets.
Not for everyone: Despite its growing popularity, most major retailers do not offer it including Wal-Mart, and according to America's Research Group founder Britt Beemer, only 6 percent of consumers have any real interest in it. There's the risk of paying on an item and being unable to complete payments, in which case money may not be refunded. There may be a cancellation fee.