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    Wal-Mart to Phase Out Layaway, While Kmart Vows to Keep It Going

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Citing declining demand and rising costs, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. here said yesterday that it would discontinue its layaway program while expanding other financing options. Shoppers will have until Nov. 19 to place items in layaway for this Christmas season, and merchandise must be picked up by Dec. 8, the retailer said.

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Citing declining demand and rising costs, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. here said yesterday that it would discontinue its layaway program while expanding other financing options. Shoppers will have until Nov. 19 to place items in layaway for this Christmas season, and merchandise must be picked up by Dec. 8, the retailer said.

    "Demand for layaway service has declined steadily as consumers turn to other options such as online shopping, gift cards, and no-cost credit alternatives," said Pat Curran, e.v.p., store operations, Wal-Mart Stores Division.

    At the same time, Wal-Mart said will provide customers with new payment choices. The company has already implemented zero-interest offers for six and 12 months for current Wal-Mart cardholders. Now customers who apply for a new Discover or Wal-Mart credit card will receive $20 back in cash when they apply at the register and buy at least $100 worth of items on their card the same day.

    As is often the case, Chris Kofinis, communications director of activist group WakeUpWalMart.com, did not approve. He said, "Wal-Mart has decided to leave working families out in the cold as the holiday season approaches…By doing away with layaways, Wal-Mart has proven that it will stop at nothing, even hurting its own customers, to slash labor costs and increase profits."

    Meanwhile, Kmart, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Sears, said it would continue to offer a comprehensive layaway plan at its nearly 1,300 stores across the United States, "as a value-added service and as part of the company's mission to build long-lasting relationships with our customers."

    Noted Don Germano, s.v.p., Kmart retail: "Kmart has offered various layaway services for nearly 40 years….With the holidays approaching, Kmart wants shoppers to know that we think it is especially important that this service be available."

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