CLEVELAND - Holiday shopping is already on the horizon for every major retailer. Toys 'R' Us and Walmart have both announced their "Hot Toys of 2012" picks. Their lists include things like Furbys, Leapfrog LeapPads, Novi Star Dolls and the Hot Wheels Terrain Twister.
Economic forecasts are predicting a 3.5 percent to 4 percent increase in sales over last year's holiday season, so stores should be busy soon. But if you are starting to get worried about how to pay for holiday gifts, consider layaway. Many retailers are offering new layaway deals this season.
Jacqueline Johnson is already planning ahead to wrap up her holiday shopping early this year. She depends on Kmart's year-round layaway service to plan her shopping budget.
"If I start early, I could get it all. This year I have five grandkids so it's going to be harder. I will be back next week."
This year, Kmart is waiving its layaway service fee for both online and in-store purchases through Nov. 17.
"We've seen an increase in our layaway business 30 to 40 percent in the last week and a half. We've never stopped layaways and I think our customers appreciated that," said store manager Chaz Hall.
Other major retailers are ramping up their layaway services too. Toys 'R' Us is waiving its $5 layaway fee until Oct. 31. Walmart is lowering their layaway service fee from $15 to $5 for the holiday shopping season, and it will return the $5 fee in a Walmart gift card once the purchase is paid off.
Since the recession hit, layaways have become more popular as consumer look to avoid high credit card fees. "I don't like credit cards, I don't have credit cards - this is easy for me," said Kmart shopper Anna Hayes.
But read the fine print of the plan. Most retailers charge a cancellation fee of $5 to $15 if you change your mind about your purchase. Also, make sure you can adjust the price if the item you put on layaway goes on sale before you pick it up.
Layaway isn't just for the big box retailers. Internet companies are offering the service too, helping facilitate your online purchases. But you need to do your research.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently filed suit against "Layaway Express" and "1-2-3 Layaway" for failing to deliver products purchased on layaway and failing to provide refunds to customers.