One story that has caught my eye: Sears has brought back layaway after ending it twenty years ago. They're doing it in response to strong customer demand for K-Mart's program, which has been advertising its own layaway program heavily. (Sears owns K-Mart, as several commenters have emailed to point out; I've edited the post to make this clearer)
This may speak as much about credit constraints as anything else that has happened in the last few months. The moral panic about the increase in credit card use has mostly overlooked the fact that to a large extent, credit cards replaced earlier, less convenient and flexible forms of credit: personal finance loans, pawnshops, buying "on time", local loan sharks, and yes, layaway. As credit gets tighter, we're seeing consumers fall back to those older institutions; the local news here in New York was running a story on pawnshops crammed with furs and other luxury goods that they don't usually handle. One business, at least, is doing well out of all of this.
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