Posted by Dale Buss on August 21, 2012 02:31 PM
The more Walmart returns to its knitting in its home U.S. market, the better the results seem to be. That's one reason the chain has decided to offer earlier layaway for its customers this year.
With the American economy still moribund, joblessness and under-employment still high, personal incomes stagnant and consumer confidence erratic at best, Walmart figured it's a good time to help its customers breathe easier. So it is launching its Christmas-layaway program a month earlier than usual and, while tripling its service fee, guaranteeing that customers will get it back after their final layaway payment.
The move is aimed at helping Walmart's clientele cope with a pronounced "paycheck cycle" these days, in which many households continue to struggle paycheck-to-paycheck, a company spokesman told the Wall Street Journal. Being able to put goods on layaway a month earlier will allow typical consumers to tap into two more bi-weekly paychecks to make the payments.
In a broader sense, Walmart's gambit will play into what could be a dicey Christmas-shopping season, as the nation continues to struggle financially while processing the results -- and the economic and financial implications -- of the November elections.
But Walmart's move also is consistent with an overall strategy that has been more successful over the last year than the previous two. Walmart's new tack has involved going back to its roots as a discount-focused retailer heavy on merchandising and crowded aisles of inexpensive goods. For a while, during the Great Recession, Walmart was pursuing a different approach, decluttering its aisles and aiming more at the kind of slightly upscale audience that has become the province of Target.
American consumers have rewarded Walmart's return to its roots over the last year with stronger same-store sales and other results. The "Early Christmas Layaway" initiative should make them even happier with their favorite store.