It’s only August, but retailers such as Walmart and Toys R Us are already getting a jump on what is expected to be a difficult holiday season.
On Wednesday, discount giant Walmart said it would bring back its layaway program this year after last year’s program pulled in 10 percent more in sales than it did when it debuted in 2011.
Layaway, which allows customers to put products on hold while paying for them in installments, will be free from opening fees this year. The chain previously charged a $5 fee to open a layaway account.
As in previous years, Walmart will require a down payment of $10, or 10 percent of an item’s price. The company reinstituted a $10 cancellation fee, which it had removed last year.
This time around, there are “no gimmicks,” Duncan Mac Naughton, Walmart’s chief merchandising and marketing officer, said in a conference call with reporters.
“Our customers are feeling the pinch,” he said, adding that the coming months “will be a very dynamic and competitive season.”
The chain is offering layaway from Sept. 13 through Dec. 13, though fans of the company on Facebook will get a two-day head start. In addition to the jewelry, toys and electronics included in the program last year, customers this year will be able to lay away infant toys and car stereos.
Walmart also plans to price-match its competitors, a tactic also being used by Toys R Us.
The playthings purveyor said this week that it was expanding its price-match guarantee to include prices of online competitors such as Walmart.com, Target.com, Amazon.com and more. The exception? All bets are off from Nov. 17 through Nov. 25, when retailers often offer extreme discounts pegged to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.