Sun Biz: Layaway makes a comeback Nov. 30, 2008

Shoppers wanting the latest jeans for their teens, the newest toy for their tots or the most current electronics for themselves are fast joining the mainstream in a resurfacing trend.

The practice of purchasing items on layaway, which hit its heyday during the Great Depression, is experiencing new popularity at stores both large and small throughout Grand Junction with business owners touting it as an alternative to running up credit-card debt and interest charges.

“Our layaways have greatly increased,” said Sid Schnabel, store manager at Kmart, 2809 North Ave., one of the stores that always has offered layaway plans. “It’s a little tighter situation in the economy right now.”

The items being set aside at the store are mainly toys and electronics items, he said.

One smaller boutique owner on Main Street is seeing more people setting purchases aside to pay for and pick up later.

“I do see an increase in people coming in for layaways,” said Becky Brehmer, owner of
Razzmatazz clothing store at 552 Main St.

Her store asks customers interested in the layaway plan to put 25 percent down, and customers have three months to pay on it before picking it up.

“It’s probably because of the economy,” she said. “If people see something, and they don’t want it to be gone the next time they come in, they can put it aside and pay a little on it every month.

We have layaway all the time. It’s just a convenience.”

That convenience comes down to money, its availability and avoiding the extra cost that stems from interest rates on credit cards.

“We’ve always had layaway, but it seems like recently, more and more people are doing it,” said Michelle Reed, manager at the Buckle clothing store in Mesa Mall, where layaways have doubled compared to a year ago at the same time.

At Buckle, there are no fees to do layaways, and people can cancel and get their money back, Reed said.

Layaways are an option at other stores such as Sears, Deb’s, the Finish Line, Men’s Warehouse and Village Squire Clothiers. Some, like J.C. Penney and Foot Locker, were among the stores in the 1980s that offered it but stopped in the years since. Others, such as f.y.e. and Rave in Mesa Mall, offer to hold items for 24 hours.

Zumiez snowboard and skater apparel and equipment store, which once had a layaway plan, discontinued the option in October because too many layaways were being left open and never paid off, officials at the store said.

Corral West clothing store in Mesa Mall, whose parent company has filed bankruptcy, has discontinued its layaway plan since the Chapter 11 filing. Calls to the corporate office for Corral West were not returned early in the week.

Layaway plans are subject to varying store rules. Stores they may choose to implement fees, but many local outlet do not. Some stores may also charge an upfront cancellation fee.


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