A recent AP story details the plan of Toys-R-Us to readopt layaway for the holiday season. And I say HOORAYYYYYY. Too over-the-top? Sorry. Yeah.
Layaway is a tool used by retailers to keep customers buying during tough credit times. The practice started back in, you guessed it, the Great Depression. Customers make a down payment on an item, and then continue to make payments on the item prior to taking possession of it when it is paid in full. It is quite the alternative to taking possession of an item prior to actually owning it. Back in the day (1980s), layaway was a huge strategy for retailers such as Marshalls and TJ Maxx. But the strategy disappeared when retailers figured out that they could instead “sell” you a store credit card, give you the item now, and then charge you ridiculous amounts of interest. Not only that, but since the customer had possession of the item, they were much more likely to make the payment on a non-standard payment schedule (read: late). That is why layaway disappeared. Don’t get it twisted.
And this is why layaway has reappeared. Consumers aren’t qualifying for the revolving credit that stores offer, therefore stores are turning to their old friend, layaway. And as you might have guessed, layaway has returned with a newfound sense of benevolence. Hooray, big business is still allowing consumers to buy things they can’t afford (Google search: sarcasm). But I would take layaway any day, over delay of pay.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.