Wal-Mart layaway ending

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

By Staff Writer

Kristina Grossheim

Rumors have been confirmed that the nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart will be discontinuing their layaway services.

Customers with limited financial resources or those who simply use layaway as a convenience will soon find shopping at Wal-Mart less accommodating.

"Customers have until Nov. 19 to put items on layaway and until Dec. 8 to take them off of layaway," said Lewisburg Assistant Store Manager, Tracy Moss.

Previously, customers who could not afford to purchase an item all at once or did not qualify for credit, could purchase the item and establish a credit history through layaway. Customers paid a percentage of the total as a down payment and then spread the remaining amount due over the course of several months.

"For people with large families and low incomes, layaway is a valuable thing," said local Wal-Mart customer, Mitzi Staszak," It's going to hurt them."

Wal-Mart expects that discontinuing layaway will have no effect on sales.

"We are planning on expanded payment plans with zero percent financing, cash back offers, and other payment options for those with limited credit," said Wal-Mart Spokesman, Jami Arms," Layaway is declining and is causing increasing costs. We want to keep prices low."

"We hate that they are getting rid of layaway," said Wal-Mart customer, Barbara Conder.

According to Patricia Edwards, Portfolio Manager and Retail Analyst at Westworth Hauser and Violich in Seattle, which manages $8.2 billion in assets and holds 51,000 Wal-Mart shares, said that dropping layaway will not chase away low income customers because they need low prices and getting some of these customers to take in-house credit cards can also mean more money for the chain in the form of credit card fees, also lowering prices.

On the other hand, WakeUpWalMart.com, a group backed by unions that has previously tried to organize Wal-Mart workers, said the company is turning its back on the qualities that late founder, Sam Walton, valued in his stores.

Chris Kofinis, the group's Communications Director, stated that Wal-Mart has proven that it will stop at nothing, even hurting its own customers, to slash labor costs and increase profits

Kmart still offers a layaway option, as does Sears for major appliances and jewelry purchases.

Kmart has taken this as an opportunity to comment that Kmart will continue layaway as a valued service as part of their mission to build long lasting relationships with their customers.