WISE COLUMN: Holiday layaway war under way
Christmas is nearly four months away, but retailers already have started jockeying for holiday dollars.
Walmart fired the first shot last month with its layaway plans. Toys R Us countered this week. Walmart lobbed a counter volley.
The world's largest retailer said in August it would offer layaway a month earlier than last year, and hike the fee by $10 to $15. On Tuesday it rolled back the charge to $5.
The move came a day after Toys R Us said it will waive its service fee for layaway orders through Oct. 31. After that, a $5 fee will apply with no minimum purchase. Customers will have until Dec. 16 to pick up their purchases. Walmart said its move wasn't in response to Toys R Us, but because of customer feedback on its Facebook page.
Walmart will start its layaway program Sept. 16, and it runs through Dec. 14. It will include more items than last year.
Walmart reiterated that shoppers who make their final layaway payment will get a full-fee refund via a gift card. Walmart still requires that each item must be $15 or more, and the total layaway purchase must be at least $50.
A down payment of 10 percent or $10, whichever is greater, is required. If the order is canceled or not paid in full, the fee is not refunded, but no additional cancellation fee will be charged, as was the case last year.
Toys R Us introduced its layaway program in 2009 for bigger items, such as bikes, swing sets and play kitchens, and expanded it for all items in 2011.
Walmart eliminated layaway except for jewelry in 2006, a year before the recession began, because it said most people used credit cards. It brought back the service last year.
Rival Sears Holdings never stopped the layaway program, which runs year-round at Kmart and Sears.
Look for lots of specials today at Tanger Outlet Center in North Charleston as it takes part in the fourth annual Fashion's Night Out from 6 to 9 p.m. The event supports the fashion and retail industries.
Burger Babies didn't last long at 293 King St. in downtown Charleston. Now another restaurant called Fire Street Food has taken its place. It opened Wednesday.
Mount Pleasant's new sunglasses store, Shades of Charleston, will open Saturday at 233 Mathis Ferry Road near Wingo Way in the former AmeriGas Propane space, said owner Steve Cordina.
Third Thursday in downtown Summerville will continue to be the monthly celebration with entertainment and activities, but starting today a slew of merchants will stay open late each Thursday. At least 24 businesses and restaurants will remain open until 8 p.m. every Thursday.
For a list of participating stores, call Summerville Dream at 821-7260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This weekend brings back the 2nd Sunday on King Street, when the downtown Charleston retail corridor is closed to vehicles from 1 to 5 p.m. between Queen and Calhoun streets. Go to www.2ndsundayonkingstreet.com for list of events and two-hour parking vouchers.
Do you know of a business that is opening, closing or expanding? Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.