Sears, Kmart prompt holiday shoppers to start budgeting

picture-13Last month, we noted that Sears Holding Corp. had opened a “Christmas Lane” online shop at and in a bid to get some early holiday dollars out of consumers. Now the company has launched a Christmas Club Card for both stores: It’s a savings plan whereby shoppers put money into the card and receive a 3 percent reward (up to $100), based on the balance on Nov. 14.

Not surprisingly, a survey commissioned by Sears Holding Corp. found that a majority of American consumers (58 percent) say they are more concerned than last year about how to pay for their holiday shopping and that they are planning to do things differently this year when it comes to holiday shopping (72 percent); of these, 57 percent plan to spend less on gifts, 53 percent intend to shop at more affordable stores and 49 percent say they will plan and set a shopping budget ahead of time.

The card seems like a good way to assuage the anxiety revealed in this survey and lock participants into a certain amount of shopping at Sears-owned stores. It also puts the retailer into a hand-holding role, helping consumers navigate the recession. As with layaway—a program that Sears revived last year and that Kmart started promoting more heavily—it harks back to the days when institutions helped shoppers budget (at one time, banks offered Christmas Club Cards in which customers could invest a portion of their paycheck).

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