Toys R Us is finally offering layaway?

NEW YORK — Toys R Us Inc. is introducing a layaway program for larger-ticket items such as bikes and cribs ahead of the holiday season, the company said Monday.

The largest U.S. toy retailer said the program is effective immediately in stores nationwide. Customers can put a variety of items on hold and make a series of payments until the item is paid in full.

Layaway programs are financing agreements in which retailers — without charging interest — hold merchandise for customers until they have finished paying in installments.
Popular during the Great Depression, layaway had become largely a thing of the past before the recession hit. But Sears expanded its program for the holidays last year, and due to its popularity Sears and Kmart introduced an online option this year.

Retailers who have introduced the programs see them as a way to keep customers buying in a time of tight credit and other economic problems. Toys R Us CEO Gerald Storch said his company’s customers were requesting a layaway program.

There’s currently no online layaway at Toys R Us, though there might be in the future, the company said. The Wayne, N.J.-based company said the program is likely to keep going after the holidays, though terms may change.

I’m finding this amusing, simply because I used to work for Toys R Us from 1993 to 1995, and back then it seemed there was no chance in hell the company would ever have layaway. That didn’t stop people from constantly asking if we did have it, though. However, as the store director back then once told a customer who asked why we didn’t have it: “We would need a store two and a half times as big.” I had discussed it with Jennifer while at lunch yesterday, and while she tried to say that people would be trying to get their stuff out and out of the store as quickly as possible before Christmas, I had to point out that the warehouse areas of the store were typically jam-packed with merchandise during the entire Christmas season, even if it’s constantly being sold and replenished. The one saving grace I see here is that the items have to be picked up by December 6th, probably to make room for the big influx of season merchandise. I’ll be interested to see how this pans out.