Hoffman Estates, Ill. - Sears is extending its layaway program to major appliances.
The company's extended-payment plan was first re-introduced at sister chain Kmart during the 2008 holiday season and later extended to most categories at Sears.
Layaway plans appeared during the Great Depression to help cash-strapped consumers pay for goods interest-free over an extended period of time, but their popularity waned in the 1980s with the increased availability of credit cards.
Sears said it added majaps to the layaway list to help maintain sales momentum as the federally funded "cash for appliances" rebate program concludes.
"For customers who haven't taken advantage of the government rebate program, Sears' layaway presents the opportunity to purchase more efficient appliances, while managing their budget," said Susan Ehrlich, financial services president for Sears Holdings. "Programs such as layaway offer a smart solution by making big-ticket items more affordable."
Sears cited a national survey it commissioned showing that more than 33 percent of consumers would consider using layaway for home appliance purchases. "Our customer spoke, so we listened," Ehrlich said.
The plan, available in stores or online at
, requires a contract initiation fee of $5 and a down payment of $15 or 20 percent. Bi-weekly payments are then made for the length of the contract.
Sears also plans to roll out an extended in-store layaway program this fall which will give customers more time to complete their payments.
In addition to offering majaps on layaway, Sears recently launched "The Big Switch," an initiative to encourage families to remove and recycle millions of inefficient appliances, and upgrade to new Energy Star-rated models that can help them save more than $2,500 on their utility bills over the life of the product.