Thinking of taking a vacation but can’t afford it? Put it on layaway.
Remember layaway payment plans? It is how my parents paid for our first color television in the mid 1960s. In our post-recession economy, paying in installments is making a resurgence as consumers shy away from running up credit card debt, and as banks have become more shy about extending credit.
Chris Morran, deputy editor at Consumerist.com, said of layaway:
“Harkening back to my childhood, if I wanted to buy something, my mom would tell me to put my allowance in a jar until I had saved enough to pay for it. Layaway is the same idea. You’re putting money down and it compels you to be responsible about paying in advance.”
While layaway programs are more common for appliances and furniture, the concept as it applies to getaways is not exactly new. A recent program announced by Sears may help make them become a lot more common, however.
Pay now, fly later
Last week, Sears Holding — parent company of retail behemoths Sears and Kmart — announced its new layaway plan for vacations, in partnership with International Cruise & Excursions.
Installment plans can be arranged for a wide variety of travel and cruise packages at SearsVacation.com. Sears is kicking off the program by offering 100 different travel packages for $399 until July 31. And there is no sign-up fee.
Sears says giving customers the layaway option it is about meeting their needs. Shannelle Armstrong-Fowler, director of public relations for Sears, said:
“Layaway has always been a part of our brands… It really has to do with offering more flexible ways to pay for our customers.”
In order to meet customer needs, retailers have to be receptive to what those needs are. Sears knows its shoppers very well, says Cornell University economics history professor Louis Hyman:
“The Sears customer is not the most affluent, and it’s the mid- to low-income consumers that have been hit hardest by the recession.”
Paid in full
Of course, like all layaway plans, you can’t bring your merchandise home before it is paid for in full. That means before booking one of these trips, you’d better be sure you can pay it off before the trip. Sometimes sooner.
“Some of the cruise lines require payment in full within 60 and 90 days of leaving.”
Layaway vacations started to become more common in 2008 and 2009, right after the economy tanked. Major retailers like Marshalls and Walmart offer them, as do many smaller outfits like Suzi Davis Travel and Gate1Travel.com. That travel booking site claims 60 percent of its customers use the payment scheme.
A penny saved…
Hyman also warned, however, that consumers would do better by contributing to a savings account earmarked for a getaway, where interest can be earned. Although modern layaway plans do not continue to add interest to customer bills as they did in the past, they certainly do not give you extra spending money for your trip, either.