August 20, 2012, 11:44 AM

Wal-Mart gives its Facebook fans early access to layaway

The retail chain is rolling out the holiday-only payment option earlier than last year.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Lead Photo

The holiday season continues to get started earlier and earlier. The latest example is Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which is giving shoppers who Like its stores’ local Facebook pages early access to holiday-only layaway program.

Shoppers who Like their local store’s Facebook page can sign up for early access to layaway on the social network starting Aug. 28. The retailer will prompt shoppers who click to sign up for early access to layaway  to enter their name, phone number and e-mail address on a page on the social network. It will then ask shoppers to print a page that verifies that the shopper Likes the store. Shoppers can then present that page to a store's customer service desk to place an item on layaway Sept. 14, two days earlier than other shoppers. The retailer, No. 4 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, last year began offering shoppers layaway Oct. 17.

Wal-Mart’s layaway program gives consumers 90 days to pay for purchases that cost at least $15. The retailer requires a 10% down payment, or $10, whichever is greater, to place an item on layaway. It also charges a $15 open fee that is refunded via a gift card when an item is paid for.

Last year Wal-Mart gave shoppers 60 days to pay for their purchases. It charged a $5 open fee, which was not refunded, as well as a $10 cancellation fee. This year there is no cancellation fee.

Payments can be made at the store where the order was placed at any time in the form of cash, check, credit card, debit card or gift card.

“Last year, millions of Americans relied on layaway at Wal-Mart to provide a great Christmas for their families,” says Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer, Wal-Mart U.S. “Because of their feedback, we’re offering the service again this year and making it better than ever.”

Wal-Mart is only offering layaway to in-store shoppers because the majority of those who use layaway regularly shop in its stores, says a spokeswoman for the retailer. Moreover, the offering does have an online component in that it uses Facebook to connect consumers with their local Wal-Mart stores, she says. The retailer last year launched the My Walmart Facebook application that delivers shoppers store-specific information, such as in-store events and promotions, as well as regional offers for its more than 3,500 stores.

Within two hours of a post announcing this year’s tweaks to its layaway program, more than 64,000 consumers Liked the post. More than 2,600 posted comments, a mixed bag that ranged from enthusiastic replies like, “AWESOME!!!!!”  to shoppers questioning why the retail chain doesn’t offer layaway year-round. For instance, one shopper wrote, “It would be a big blessing if Walmart good have layaway year around. It would help me and my household out very much.” However, for now Wal-Mart does not plan to make layaway a year-round offering. "We know from our customers that the holidays is when layaway is needed the most," she says.

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