What is Layaway?

Layaway began during The Great Depression in the 1930s when many families did not have enough money to pay for gifts. Retailers, aware of the cash crunch, decided to let customers make cash payments in installments. The store would hold the items until all payments were made, at which time customers could take home their items. Millions of families used layaway every holiday until the 1980s and 90s when credit cards became more commonly used. Credit cards made it possible for families to take their purchases immediately and still pay for them over time.

The early 2000s recession brought layaway programs back when credit became less available for some families. Sears brought back their layaway program in 2008 and Toys ‘R’ Us started offering layaway on expensive items in 2009.  Walmart temporarily jumped on board in 2011 with its renewed Holiday Layaway program in select stores. Other retailers like Best Buy, Burlington Stores, Kmart, Marshalls, Sears, T.J. Maxx, and Toys ‘R’ Us joined too.

Today, many families still use layaway programs during the holiday season.

Today’s layaway programs are not always free to use. Many retailers require a 10 to 20% down payment on purchases and service fees (usually between $5 and $15) to cover the cost of storing items and processing multiple payments. If a family can’t make the payments by the due date, a retailer may charge a cancellation fee, sometimes up to $100, and a restocking fee. The payment schedule is usually strict, and the deadlines to pay off a layaway are non-negotiable. For holiday layaways, the deadline date is typically the week before Christmas.

Pay Away the Layaway’s mission is to inspire hope and spread kindness to families who need joy in their holidays.  With the support of our generous donors and partners, Pay Away visits retailers around the country to surprise families and pay off their layaway balances. We have paid off layaways in all 50 states and on military bases overseas. We partner with retailers like Burlington Stores, the Army & Air Force Exchange, and Navy Exchange.

We hope you will join us to inspire hope and spread kindness to families this holiday season.