Lay-a-way may help give retailers, consumers good holiday - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Lay-a-way may help give retailers, consumers good holiday

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By Len Kiese - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - You may not be ready for Christmas but retailers are. After a rough couple of years, they hope you'll spend.

Consumers are expected to spend an average of $682.74 this year on holiday-related shopping but that's more than a 3-percent drop from last year.  Retailers are still hopeful.

Halloween hasn't even hit yet but it's already starting to look like Christmas at many stores. At Sears you'll find everything from Christmas trees to reindeer decorations. But are shoppers ready?

"The cost of living is going up but the paychecks are not increasing," said shopper T'eldgra Steward.

Despite a tight economy, Steward doesn't plan to hold back when it comes to spending holiday dollars. She plans to spend a couple thousand.  "All of my saved paychecks," said Steward, "I have two nephews and a niece so I mainly buy everything for them."

Steward may be an exception to the retail rule this year.  According to the National Retail Federation, 65.3 percent of Americans say the economy will affect their holiday plans. 84.2 percent of shoppers polled say they plan to spend less and more than 30-percent will buy more practical gifts. That's why stores are working hard to attract customers.

"Our company is rolling out some aggressive marketing material for sales and things like that," said Sears Manager Kelvin Tompkins.

One tool is the return of layaway.  The pay towards a purchase plan made a comeback at Sears last year and was successful. "This year we probably got three or four times as many layaways," said Tompkins.

Customers simply shop for what they want, give the store a down payment and make bi-weekly payments until it's paid off. It's a convenience for shoppers that also helps retailers in the long run. "Well we certainly hope so," said Tompkins, "It's a way for us to get customers in to look at other merchandise and maybe increase their ticket for it."

The big indicator of consumer spending comes the day after Thanksgiving when sales are hot for Black Friday. That's when Steward plans to start spending her holiday dough. "I like the rush of trying to find stuff. I'm not a last minute person," said Steward.

With retailers pulling out all the stops and shoppers taking advantage of it, the season could turn out to be a nice gift after all.

The layaway plan seems to be getting popular. We called around to a few different stores and found out that along with Sears, K-Mart, Toys-R-Us and TJ Maxx also have plans.  

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