Toys R Us expands layaway program

WAYNE, N.J. (AP) ? Toys R Us is expanding its layaway program ahead of the holidays, the company said Tuesday.

Toys R Us started offering a layaway option for bigger items like swing sets and bikes in 2009, and last year broadened the program to include things like video game consoles and tablets.

This year, a layaway option will be offered on all toys, from Legos to Barbie, in about 450 of its 600 stores, beginning Oct. 15. The smaller Toys R Us Express stores and outlet stores don’t have the layaway program.

Toys R Us is joining retailers like Best Buy, Walmart and Kmart in expanding its layaway program as an incentive to get cautious shoppers into stores or shopping on Web sites.

Retail revenue in November and December is expected to be up 3 percent during what is traditionally the biggest shopping period of the year, research firm ShopperTrak said last month. That’s below last year’s 4.1 percent increase but above the 2.6 percent average gain over the last 10 years.

Yet shoppers are still expected to be hunting for bargains with the economy unstable. And most will do more comparison shopping online before they head to stores. That is expected to drive store traffic down 2.2 percent, according to ShopperTrak, which monitors activity in 25,000 U.S. stores.

“We know that consumers will continue to look for ways to stretch their dollars this holiday season, but they still want to make sure they have that special Christmas gift for the children in their lives,” said Neil Friedman, president of Toys R Us U.S.

To participate in the layaway program, customers must pay a $5 fee and put down at least 20 percent in advance. Customers have 90 days to pay for the item in full. All layaway orders must be paid off by Dec. 4. There is a $10 charge for cancellations (some states have different rules).