Walmart Inc. has reduced the number of supercenters offering layaways this Christmas shopping season, picking up service in stores where demand is lower.
“The stores that continue to set aside were selected based on the use of the program over the past few years,” Walmart spokesman Casey Staheli said Thursday. He did not say how many stores were affected by the decision.
However, Staheli said Walmart has other financing options nationwide, including its Walmart Rewards credit card and Affirm, a buy-it-now and pay-back program available on select purchases.
Carol Spieckerman, retail consultant and president of Spieckerman Retail, said it’s important to note that the Bentonville-based retailer isn’t completely eliminating layaways.
“It’s about looking at the data and deciding which stores are most relevant to the program,” Spieckerman said. “That’s not to say shoppers won’t be disappointed or at least confused when layaways end in their stores. This could be problematic in areas where different Walmart formats are scarce. “
Shoppers can search for stores in their area that still have layaways using the store locator at Walmart.com/layaway.
A search of the locator shows that the only store in Benton and Washington counties where layaway is available is in Springdale in 2004 S. Pleasant St. Two Supercenters in Little Rock and one in North Little Rock are among those that still offer it, as well as one in Fort Smith and several in the Jonesboro area, according to the locator.
The layaway store search page also contains a prompt for more information about the Affirm program. Spieckerman said Walmart would clearly like to “wean” shoppers away from the layaway and toward Affirm.
“In the meantime, continuing the layaway on a selective basis might be seen as generous given the cumbersome execution of it and how covid-19 has reduced the store visits required to make payments,” Spieckerman said. .
Layaway allows customers to reserve goods with a deposit and make interest-free payments over a set period. According to Investopedia.com, it started during the Depression of the 1930s, but fell out of favor in the 1980s as credit card use increased.
Still, the layaway works for people with limited disposable income who can’t make larger lump sum payments for their purchases. It also benefits retailers by allowing them to sell products to low-income customers, including those with no credit or bad credit, with little risk.
Walmart ended its year-round layaway program in 2006 to cut costs and make room for the store delivery service it was starting. But it rekindled the layaway for the 2011 Christmas shopping season, when many families continued to suffer financially from the recession.
The retailer now offers the service every year starting August 28. The last day that customers can pay their account balance and pick up reserved items is December 14, according to the company’s website.
Every year, reports come from across the country of celebrities and anonymous “Secret Santa Claus” paying the layaway balances of large numbers of customers at Walmart and other retailers.