Monday, November 7

The Return of Layaway

At 16 years old, I got my first job at JCPenney ... in the catalog department no less.  Looking back it really was my first exposure to customer service, consumerism, retail shopping behavior, and of course credit cards.  "Will that be cash or charge," I used to ask repeatedly.  And now here I am pushing my 16 year old son to get a job.  Geesh.

I don't remember much about American Express from back then (if at all), but I do remember Master Card and I certainly remember the JCPenney credit card.  And I remember asking people to fill out applications on the spot.  Here I was 16 years old asking people to divulge their financial information.  OMG.

Back then though, cash and credit wasn't the only way to go:  we had LAYAWAY!  Shoppers could actually put items on hold in the store and pay for them a little bit at a time.  That way they knew the item would be there for them, but they didn't have to "charge" it or throw out the cash all at once.  During the holidays, layaway was huge!

Well it appears to be coming back in a big way, thanks to the bad economy, years of credit restrictions, horrible credit ratings, and maxed out cards ... and thanks to KMart and Walmart and a few other holiday retailers.

These stores are allowing shoppers to put aside items they'll want for holiday gifts, pay them down a little at a time, and then pick them up once paid in full.  It's actually quite brilliant, especially for gift giving.  Innovative?  No.  Culturally relevant?  Yes!

If you think about it, Layaway does improve the shopping experience for consumers.  Less stress.  Sort of like enhancing the "pre-customer" experience before they fully buy the item.

Of course it requires a change in behavior.  No immediate gratification.  No last minute purchasing.  No spending over our limits.  Hmmmm ... it's old school and it's way way appropriate.  Should have brought it back a few years ago.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President of Lippe Taylor
Author of The Experience Effect

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