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Layaway Is Here to Stay at Sears Stores

Sears Holdings will keep providing a layaway option at its namesake stores as shoppers dealing with the recession look for more options to help pay for their purchases.

Sears
Sears

The retailer relaunched the layaway program at its Sears stores over the holidays, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

The company started the program over the holiday season after seeing a strong response to the pay-over-time plan at its Kmart locations.

Kmart has maintained the program for decades, but began promoting the option for the first time in years in late October.

Sears said late Thursday that customer demand prompted it to keep layaway at most of its Sears full line and Sears hardware stores, as well as Sears Grand and Sears Essential stores, year round.

As part of its layaway program, Sears shoppers will have 90 days to pay off the purchase price and pick up the item.

There are also some fees associated with the program. Since 1989, Sears had offered the option only for fine jewelry purchases.

Layaway programs are financing agreements in which retailers —without charging interest — hold merchandise for customers until they have finished paying for the items in installments.

Layaway, which has its roots in the Great Depression, was largely eclipsed in the past two decades as economic prosperity grew and consumers lined their wallets with credit cards.

But these days some retailers are offering layaway to assist recession-weary customers trying to avoid credit-card charges.

Last week Sears said it expects fourth-quarter profit to beat analysts' estimates and that it will end the fiscal year with some cash on hand and less inventory. Sears Holdings was formed after financier Edward Lampert acquired Kmart in 2003 and Sears, Roebuck and in 2005.