Everything comes back in style eventually - bell bottoms, seer sucker suits, Volkswagen beetles, and now layaway.
Introduced after the great depression, layaway helped retailers move merchandise in a money-tight era. Consumers relied on it to purchase items they couldn’t afford at checkout. Store owners would allow shoppers to make payments over time, but they held the item in the store until it was paid for in full.
Once credit became easily accessible, layaway was pushed aside. But thanks to the credit crunch, the buy-now pay-later mentality of credit cards has been replaced by frugal consumer spending and an unwillingness to take on more debt. As a result, many shoppers are turning to layaway as a financially savvy way to make holiday purchases.
Layaway is largely confined to national retailers, but luckily most of the retail giants offering plans have stores located in the Louisville area. Here’s the scoop on stores offering layaway plans.
Sears: Items will be held until Dec. 23. Down payment required of $15 or 20 percent (whichever is greater). Terms include a nonrefundable service fee of $5 and a cancellation fee of $10. Home electronics, appliances and automotive merchandise are excluded.
Kmart: Offers an eight-week layaway contract. A $5 service fee plus a $10 cancellation, or a 10 percent down payment (whichever is greater) is collected when merchandise is put on layaway. The biweekly payment for all new contracts is 25 percent of the original balance.
Burlington Coat Factory: Layaway items are held for 30 days. A 25 percent deposit is due at the time of purchase, another 25 percent payment is due in 14 days and the rest is due two weeks later. There is a nonrefundable $5 service charge, and if you change the layaway in any way, a $5 cancellation fee is charged. No cash refunds are given.
TJ Maxx and Marshalls: A deposit of 10 percent of the total is required along with a nonrefundable fee, which typically is $5. Layaway items must be picked up and paid for in full within 30 days.
With the growing popularity of layaway, it’s not surprising the concept has appeared online as well. For big-ticket items, one option is the website www.eLayaway.com. The online company represents more than 1,000 merchants selling everything from Coach bags to Electrolux front-loading washers. Categories include electronics, jewelry, appliances, furniture and home and garden. Payments are set for a period of three to 13 months and are automatically deducted from a bank account.
Payment and terms are set by the individual merchant; eLayaway charges a transaction fee that is 1.9% of the layaway total. The cancellation fee is $25.
Other businesses are picking up on the idea of layaway, too. An online travel site, www.layaway-travel.com, lets you pay for vacations on a monthly plan.
Maybe next year it will be big hair bands.