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2011 News Releases

Longwood retailing expert sees resurgence of layaway and Christmas clubs, discusses other holiday shopping trends

December 9, 2011

Dr. John Gaskins

Aluminum Christmas trees and Schwinn cruisers aren't the only things that have experienced a holiday comeback.

Longwood University retailing expert Dr. John Gaskins says layaway and Christmas clubs also are gaining in popularity. In today's economy, consumers are trying to avoid credit card debt - and that's pushing many of them back to the tried and true, said Gaskins, associate professor of marketing and retailing.

For example, the International Business Times reported that Wal-Mart reinstated its layaway program in 2011 due to consumer demand. The Fox Business website weighed in on Christmas clubs with figures from the Credit Union National Association indicating that nearly 72 percent of credit unions run these savings programs.

"Layaway is good for consumers - there's not a big bill in January, and you don't have to worry about not getting the item you want. However, it's a big hassle for stores since they have to take merchandise off the shelf and keep it somewhere, keep track of it, and do the bookkeeping on the time payments.

"Christmas clubs, on the other hand, are basically savings clubs [where you] pay a pre-determined amount of money per week to an interest-bearing account at a bank or other financial institution. The good news is that it imposes a certain amount of discipline. On the other hand, the stores might be sold out of the item you want by the time the club matures."

Other trends in holiday shopping are the increasing popularity of kiosks-- stations inside a store where customers can go online and make a purchase--and mobile apps, said Gaskin.

"This allows shoppers to make a purchase in a store instead of going to a store down the street to check their price, or going home and buying online," he said, adding that stores have added these kiosks to battle the challenges that online shopping poses to traditional retailers.

Holiday shoppers also are increasingly using mobile apps, especially after viewing items in stores, Gaskins said. "There are half a million mobile apps. These are programs that could be on a smartphone, tablet or a mobile device."

One app allows consumers to scan a product code and then searches other stores in the area to find availability and prices for the item.

However purchases are made, Gaskins predicts that sales will be up about 2.5 percent for this year's holiday shopping season, which runs from Black Friday to New Year's Day.

"It won't be up to pre-recession levels, but it will be enough to help with profitability and sustainability. Retailers are feeling good," he said.