Toys “R” Us is following the lead of Kmart and Sears in offering shoppers a layaway option for the holiday season. “The Big Gift” program helps people pay for bigger-ticket items such as bikes, swing sets and baby furniture: Shoppers put down 20 percent of the total purchase and pay a $10 service fee, then pay off the rest in small, interest-free increments. Participants must make the final payment by Dec. 6 for items to be delivered in time for Christmas. Toys “R” Us has said it may extend the program beyond this holiday season if it proves popular.
In what is likely to be a tough holiday season, layaway is a smart way to attract consumers who don’t have credit or want to avoid piling on more debt. And after nearly two years of recessionary living, people are becoming accustomed to delayed gratification. eLayaway.com, which administers online layaway programs for retailers including Best Buy, Apple and Dell, has seen business double over the past year, according to the Chicago Tribune. Surprisingly few retailers are adopting such programs: “I’m surprised we haven’t seen more companies announce layaways at this point,” Ellen Davis, vice president of the National Retail Foundation, recently told the Tribune.