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Layaway programs fuel early holiday shopping

By Nedra Rhone - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution



Hold on to your wallets — the holiday shopping juggernaut has begun.

Kmart aired its first holiday themed television commercial last week. So “Christmas Creep” seems to be happening again, no matter how hard consumers have lobbied against it.

Advertising Age reports that the Kmart commercial, which features a giant gingerbread man sneaking up on an office employee, promotes the retailer’s free layaway program. The program charges no service fees for new layaway purchases online or in-store Nov. 23.

The ad is about seven weeks earlier than the first Kmart holiday spot from last year, which aired on Oct. 28, according to the Ad Age. Holiday television commercials typically do not begin airing until late October, the article notes, though last year, Target also hit early with an Oct. 7 holiday shopping spot.

Naturally, the move drew criticism from some customers on Kmart’s Facebook page for pushing the holiday season even earlier this year.

But really, Kmart isn’t alone.

While they’ve held off on airing television ads, other retailers — including Target, Toys R Us and Walmart — have all already started publicizing and launching their holiday shopping programs.

In August, Toys R Us announced a new price matching policy that allows Toys R Us shoppers to request a price match for identical items found either online or in-store at competitors such as Target, Walmart, Best Buy and Amazon. Previously, Toys R Us would only match competitors’ in-store advertised prices. They will also match any prices on Toysrus.com or babiesrus.com in-store, except on items designated as online only merchandise.

Walmart also announced its layaway program which is available from Sept. 13 - Dec. 13 in-store. This year, layaway is free, except for the $10 or 10 percent (whichever is more) down payment fee to initiate the account. Items in layaway must cost $50 or more and individual items must be at least $15. If you cancel the account or fail to pay off the balance, all payments are refunded minus a $10 cancellation fee.

And finally, Target is reportedly planning to launch an in-store pick-up program for the holiday season which allows shoppers to purchase items online, then pick them up in store.

No doubt, we’ll be hearing more about this in the coming weeks.

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