Walmart is getting the jump on Kmart this year by being the first major retailer to advertise their Christmas layaway.
The world’s largest retailer is opening their program in conjunction with a marketing push of their new Toy Week promotion which promises to highlight as many as 500 new Star Wars themed toys. The newest Star Wars film is slated for release at Christmas.
Kmart for three years running has poked fun at itself — and endured a lot of media heat — for mentioning Christmas in the same breath as their layaway program because it launches still during the heat of summer. All publicity, even bad publicity, is good publicity and Walmart is poised to take the heat this year as ads hit the market ahead of the competition.
Layaway programs have been back in fashion since about 2009 as the American economy in particular has made for more frugal consumers.
Walmart’s program is especially popular for its ease of use: starting Friday, two weeks earlier than it did last season, Walmart will allow customers to pay for nearly 40,000 items in installments. Shoppers will have 90 days to pay for their items. Merchandise will need to cost at least $10 and the total of items under layaway must reach $50, according to the company.
Walmart is not only a market leader in sales but also promotion. By jumping the gun before Labor Day it means that consumers can expect more early ads from other retailers and further dilution of the traditional Black Friday selling period. In times past such Christmas promotion was held back until a day after Thanksgiving. Now it extends for weeks ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. This year is now expected to push those promotions earlier than ever.
The media is critical of big box retailers for pushing Christmas early through the launch of layaway programs but consumers enthusiastically embrace these programs and make liberal use of them in the months leading the Christmas. It has become not only part of a critical retail strategy but also an attractive holiday planning device for consumers that is smart, convenient and timely.
That fact Walmart is launching it early this year confirms its value both to them and to consumers.