Layaway shopping is the new black as Kmart joins revival

You may have seen their commercials. Kmart has been touting their new layaway plan as a great way to shop for Christmas gifts, except, of course, it's not a new plan. They've had it for years. But the concept of layaway--paying for something in installments before you make your purchase and thus not raking up any interest--that feels new to a lot of people. Including myself. I'm in my late 30s, and I can't think of any time when I've ever bought anything on layaway.

But you look through old newspaper ads, and you can see how it once not just a concept but a way of life, just as credit cards are today. Everyone bought everything on layaway -- furniture, jewelry, suits. In an April 25, 1947 copy of the St. Petersburg Times, for instance, there's an ad touting a layaway program for a graduation gift for a high school senior: a $15 pen with a gold-plated cap. Boy, times have changed.

But layaway may be coming back, thanks, of course, to the swing in the economy in the last few weeks, and so I thought I'd compile a list of some of the places you can find layaway programs:


Toys R Us Trends 2008

    Toys R Us has identified five trends for hot holiday toys, and several toys for each category. Among them are the trend $avvy Savers and the Zillions Laser Beam Safe from Summit Toys.

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    Trend: $avvy Savers Toy: Zillions Counting Money Jar from Summit Toys

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    Trend: $avvy Savers Toy: Shop & Learn Walker from Fisher-Price

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    Trend: Music My Way Toy: iPods of all varieties

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    Trend: Music My Way Toy: Acoustic guitars from First Act Discovery

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    Trend: Music My Way Toy: Nickelodeon's iCarly boom box

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    Trend: Music My Way Toy: Activision/Blizzard's Guitar Hero: World Tour

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    Trend: Earth-Friendly Fun Toy: Natural Wood Alphabet Block Wagon from Toys R Us

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    Trend: Earth-Friendly Fun Toy: Green Toys' Cookware and Dining Set

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    Trend: Earth-Friendly Fun Toy: Laura C Martin's Nature's Art Box

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Retail stores that have layaway programs:
This isn't meant to be a full list. Marshalls, the aforementioned Kmart, Burlington Coat Factory, T.J. Maxx and KB Toys all have layaway plans.

One place you can't find it, at least not at the moment: Walmart. They got rid of their program in 2006. I have to wonder if the executives are kicking themselves now.

Of course, there is--you almost expect it--a website you can go to that will let you buy just about anything you want on layaway: Check out eLayaway.com. As it says on its web site, it "allows you to buy the products and services that you want by paying for them through manageable monthly payments that you set." They have a calculator that will let you figure out the purchase price over 3 to 13 monthly payments. Payments are automatically deducted from your bank account every month. The fee for the service is 1.9% for every $100 you spend. Once you've paid for your TV, shoes, your fishing reel -- you can buy about anything -- then it's delivered.

Take a vacation on layaway: Yep, you can pay for your vacation first, in layaway installments at Layaway-Travel.com.

Diapers? Yup. Believe it or not, there's even a layaway plan for cloth diapers at BabysAbode.com.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).

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