By Joyce May
Killeen Daily Herald
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is phasing out its layaway program and while company officials say it's not a bad thing, some customers say they will be taking their special-occasion shopping elsewhere.
Nov. 19 will be the last day customers of the retail giant can place items on layaway and the purchases must be picked up by Dec. 9.
The company cited declining use and increasing costs as the reason for the decision.
Killeen Wal-Mart manager Bob Sikes said the move will not mean any personnel changes.
"No one is losing their job or anything like that," he said. "Truthfully, layaway has become outdated."
Copperas Cove Wal-Mart manager Richard Donnell said the company plans to expand its financing options to consumers and, according to a news release, the company already has zero-interest offers for 6 and 12 months for current Wal-Mart cardholders.
Customers also are being offered a $20 cash incentive when they apply for a new Discover or Wal-Mart credit card at the register and purchase at least $100 on the card the same day.
"It's not a horrible thing. What we are going to offer our customers is a lot of other options.We are also going to offer a lot more lenient credit ratings to our customers," Donnell said. "That way they can hopefully put it on our credit card."
Donnell said for those unable to qualify for a credit card, Wal-Mart will be piloting a 90-day same-as-cash program.
"Honestly, it is just keeping up with the times. Like Target and most other major retailers, they don't offer layaway anyway," he said. "There is the initial shock of not having layaway, but what we will offer our customers will be fairly comparable and maybe even a better shopping experience."
The company is also directing customers to its online store and "site-to-store" plan, offering free delivery on some purchases that are delivered to and picked up from select stores.
"Go online, order it, purchase it and be able to pick it up at the store with no delivery charge. You can't beat that in the dot com industry," Donnell said.
Despite these options, some customers say they will miss the layaway program because they use it for birthday presents, school clothes, big purchases, Christmas and other holiday shopping.
"I don't use online because they don't ship it to Killeen. The only option it gave me is Dallas," said Michelle Stoner, whose family is stationed on Fort Hood. "Basically, since it is closing, I will get my stuff at another store that does layaway. The PX on post offers layaway, and they still offer the same merchandise."
Stoner said layaway also was a good place to store presents that she didn't want her kids to find before a special occasion.
Bonnie Sanders, who has a family of four, expressed similar sentiments, saying that she liked layaway because it enabled her to avoid paying high interest rates on credit cards.
"It's going to make a big difference, especially when you have a large family. It's hard to get everything at one time on one check," Sanders said.
Most of the birthdays in her family fall from October through January, during the busy holiday season, she said.
Rachelle Martinez is in a similar situation with her family stationed on Fort Hood. She and her husband have four kids with birthdays in September, October, November, February and another baby due in January.
And with Christmas in December, she said the soon-to-be family of seven cannot afford to buy everything outright.
"Putting it on our credit cards gets a little pricey with the interest and everything," Martinez said.
She also said her family would likely go elsewhere, such as the PX or Kmart.
Contact Joyce May at firstname.lastname@example.org