From AP via Yahoo News:
Sounds to me like a major case of someone shooting themselves in the foot. I know a lot of people who shop at WM over Target or other stores just because of the layaway program. Not to mention that people are more likely to make large purchases if they don't have to pay for everything upfront.Wal-Mart Stores to cease layaway service
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will end layaway service this year due to falling demand and rising costs, scrapping a tradition started when Sam Walton founded the chain in 1962 catering to cash-strapped rural shoppers in northwest Arkansas.
Wal-Mart said Thursday it will stop accepting layaway items Nov. 19 with a pickup deadline of mid-December. In its layaway program, customers make a down payment to hold an item and then generally had up to 60 days to pay it off, with a shorter deadline in the peak Christmas season.
Layaway services are used mainly by people at the lowest end of the income scale, who don't have credit cards and may not qualify for credit, analysts say.
The move comes as Wal-Mart is changing on many fronts, from adding upscale fashions to targeting new urban customers, in a bid to revive growth rates that have fallen behind smaller rivals such as Target Corp.
"Demand for layaway service has declined steadily as consumers turn to current options including online shopping, shopping cards and no-cost credit alternatives that were not available when the company was started," said Pat Curran, executive vice president of Wal-Mart store operations.
Analysts said most retailers have already dropped layaway service as it is expensive and cumbersome. Merchandise can be tied up for months and employees have to keep track of a steady trickle of payments.
One holdout is Kmart, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corporation, which issued a statement Thursday stating that it continues to offer layaway services at its 1,300 stores.
"This is another recognition that Wal-Mart is no longer a little Ozarks company but instead is the nation's largest private employer and the world's largest retailer," said Patricia Edwards, portfolio manager and retail analyst at Wentworth, Hauser & Violich in Seattle, which manages $8.2 billion in assets and holds 51,000 Wal-Mart shares.
Still, Wal-Mart's union-backed critics said the move marked another step away from its founder's vision.
"Sam Walton's Wal-Mart — the one that 'bought American', treated workers with some dignity, and gave low income customers a chance to buy an expensive item over time — that Wal-Mart is now on permanent layaway," said Chris Kofinis, spokesman for WakeUpWalMart.com.
Stupid, if you ask me. Truly, truly stupid.