Toys R Us is expanding its layaway program and offering special Bill Me Later finance plans to help consumers budget before the holidays.
The nation's largest toy retailer, which in 2009 launched a layaway program on big-ticket items such as bikes and later added other eligible categories, said that beginning Oct. 15 it would offer layaway on nearly all playthings in 450 of about 600 Toys R Us stores nationwide.
Toys R Us President Neil Friedman said the retailer hoped the program's expansion would help parents reserve their gifts "early in the season when selection is best."
"We know that consumers will continue to look for ways to stretch their dollars this holiday season, but they still want to make sure they have that special Christmas gift," he said.
The in-store layaway option gives customers 90 days to pay for their purchase. A 20% down payment is required and there is a $5 service fee for layaway. Half the total price of the order must be paid within 45 days.
All layaway orders must be paid for in full by Dec. 4.
Popular during the Great Depression, layaway programs had all but faded away by the turn of the century as shoppers turned to credit cards to shop. But layaway has made a comeback since the most recent recession because it enables shoppers to select their items early and pay off those purchases in a series of small payments; retailers will hold the items during that time. Last month, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced that it was bringing back its layaway program.
Toys R Us also said that online shoppers could take advantage of a limited-time Bill Me Later offer to make payments for Internet purchases.
Through Oct. 22, customers can make no payments and pay no interest for up to 12 months on purchases of $500 or more that are paid in full in that time frame, or make no payments and pay no interest for up to six months on purchases of $100 or more that are paid in full within that time frame.
To promote the financing options, Toys R Us will introduce its first online catalog highlighting many of the big gifts that can be put on layaway or purchased online using the Bill Me Later payment option.
— Andrea Chang
Photo: A Toys R Us store in New York during the 2010 holiday season: Credit: Associated Press