Laying away in a tough economy

RALIEGH Many thought layaway was long-gone -a shopping strategy outdated by easy credit. But now with an economy that's struggling - partly because of irresponsible borrowing and lending - some people and stores are going back to an old way to pay.

Christmas shopping for her infant son in Raleigh Thursday, Nina Rowland told Eyewitness news that she does not like to use credit cards, but she doesn't always have the cash on hand for her purchase.

"Not everyone can buy everything at one time," she explained.

So she says she likes to shop at K-Mart because they are one of the only stores left in the U.S. which allows shoppers to buy items and then put them on layaway.

"I paid what I could. I think it was $15 to get on, to get on layaway. So then I paid what I could until I got it off. I think it was just a couple weeks. And I don't think I could get much shopping done without that layaway," said Rowland.

Layaway was born out of the Depression in the 1930's, but it faded from the U.S. retail scene 60 years later as people started using credit cards for everyday purchases.

"Layaway, it sits in the back and it's out of style by the time you get it if it's clothes," offered NC State student Daryl Rackley.

But now in a struggling economy, K-Mart is trying to separate its brand from Wal-Mart and Target by saying layaway is a smart way to avoid interest payments.

"$5 flat rate fee to place something on layaway, and a lot of times that's a little easier to deal with than the percentage rate that may come off a credit card," explained K-Mart Assistant Manager Shawn Ethridge.

And K-Mart says in this economy, it's seeing more layaway.

"The parents are trying to keep it out of the eyes of the children. So, they're trying to make it a good Christmas for the kids. They are scaling back a little bit. But I see a lot more toys on layaway than anything else," said Ethridge.

Rowland says she's not scaling back.

"I still have a bad shopping habit. I still do," she offered.

But she's putting the purchase on layaway, not plastic. K-Mart is not the only one with the retro payment plan. Marshall's and Burlington Coat Factory are also wheeling in the layaway programs just in time for this holiday shopping season.

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