It's only August, but retailers including Wal-Mart and Toys R Us are already getting a jump on what is expected to be a difficult holiday season.
Discount giant Wal-Mart on Wednesday said it would bring back its layaway program this year after last year's program pulled in 10 percent more in sales than it did when it debuted in 2011.
Layaway, which allows customers to put products on hold while paying for them in installments, will be free of opening fees this year. The chain previously charged a $5 fee to open a layaway account.
As in previous years, Wal-Mart will require a down payment of $10 or 10 percent of an item's price. The company reinstituted a $10 cancellation fee, which it had removed last year.
The chain is offering layaway from Sept. 13 to Dec. 13, though shoppers who "like" the company on Facebook will get a two-day head start. In addition to the jewelry, toys and electronics included in the program last year, customers this year will be able to lay away infant toys and car stereos.
Wal-Mart's chief merchandising and marketing officer, Duncan Mac Naughton, said he expected major sellers among the 35,500 available items to be computer tablets such as the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy smartphones, PlayStation and Xbox One game consoles, big-screen smart TVs, toys such as the Furby Boom and the Barbie Dream House, and children's learning toys.
Wal-Mart also plans to price-match its products to other competitors, a tactic also being used by Toys R Us. The playthings purveyor said this week that it was expanding its price-match guarantee to include prices of online competitors such as Walmart.com, Target.com, Amazon.com and more.