For many years, Walmart’s layaway program has been a lifeline for customers who needed to spread out their payments for purchases. However, in 2021, the retail giant announced it would discontinue its layaway service, replacing it with a “buy now, pay later” option through a partnership with Affirm. This decision sparked mixed reactions among consumers and industry observers alike. So, why no layaway at Walmart? Let’s delve into the history, reasons behind the decision, and its implications.
Walmart discontinued its layaway program in 2021 due to the rise of “buy now, pay later” financing options, which offer more convenience to customers. The retail giant has partnered with Affirm, a service that allows customers to purchase items immediately and pay over time. While this move has been criticized by some customers, it reflects changing consumer preferences and broader trends in the retail industry.
The History of Walmart’s Layaway Program
Walmart’s layaway program has a long history, dating back to the company’s inception in 1962. This service allowed customers to reserve merchandise with a deposit and make interest-free payments, with the store holding the item until the final payment was made. The program was particularly popular among shoppers with limited income or no credit, as it enabled them to make purchases without needing to pay the full amount upfront.
However, the popularity of layaway programs began to decline in the 1980s due to the increasing availability of credit cards. Walmart discontinued its year-round layaway program in 2006 to cut costs and make room for its new ship-to-store service. The company cited declining demand and escalating costs as reasons for ending the service. In 2011, Walmart revived its layaway program for the Christmas shopping season in response to the financial difficulties brought on by the Great Recession and the resulting increase in consumer credit constraints.
Why Did Walmart Discontinue Its Layaway Plan?
Walmart’s decision to discontinue its layaway plan was influenced by several factors. One of the main reasons was the rise of buy now, pay later (BNPL) financing options, which have become increasingly popular among consumers. Walmart has partnered with Affirm, a BNPL service, to replace its layaway program. Affirm allows customers to purchase items immediately and pay over time in a span of three to 24 months, with interest rates ranging from 10% to 30%. This approach offers more convenience to customers, as they can take the item home immediately and pay it off with Affirm.
However, the decision to discontinue the layaway program has sparked backlash from consumers who argue that layaway is helpful for low-income families trying to buy gifts for their families. Layaway allowed customers to reserve merchandise for a deposit and interest-free payments, which was particularly popular among people with limited disposable income or no credit. Despite the criticism, Walmart has moved forward with its decision to replace layaway with Affirm.
Impacts on Walmart’s Customers
The discontinuation of Walmart’s layaway program has impacted its customers in several ways. On the positive side, customers can now take the item home immediately and pay it off with Affirm, instead of having to wait for the item to be paid in full through layaway.
However, there are also some downsides to this change. Not all Walmart customers may be eligible to use Affirm, depending on their prequalification status. Furthermore, partial payments or late payments may impact a consumer’s credit score or ability to receive new loans with the company. This is different from the traditional layaway program, which allowed customers to purchase items without having their credit impacted.
Alternative Payment Methods at Walmart
In response to changing consumer needs, Walmart provides a variety of alternative payment methods for its customers, including EBT cards, debit cards, credit cards, gift cards, PayPal, and Walmart Pay. The company also offers the Capital One Walmart Credit Card and has partnered with Klarna to offer a service similar to Affirm, allowing customers to split their purchase into four smaller payments.
Walmart’s Decision in the Context of Retail Industry Trends
Walmart’s decision to end its layaway program reflects broader retail industry trends, such as the shift towards BNPL options and the increasing popularity of online shopping. The rise of BNPL services like Affirm, Klarna, and Afterpay has led to the decline of layaway programs, as they offer more flexible payment options and immediate access to purchased items. Moreover, the retail industry has been focusing on improving customer experiences and embracing omnichannel strategies, which blend online and in-store shopping experiences.
Walmart’s decision to discontinue its layaway program and replace it with a “buy now, pay later” option through Affirm may have significant implications for its customers and the retail industry at large. While the move has sparked some backlash, it also reflects changing consumer preferences and the broader trends in the retail industry. It remains to be seen how this decision will impact Walmart’s sales and customer loyalty in the long term. However, one thing is clear: the retail landscape is changing, and companies like Walmart are adapting to keep up with these changes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is a “Buy Now, Pay Later” service?
A “Buy Now, Pay Later” service, often abbreviated as BNPL, is a type of point of sale installment loan. This service allows customers to purchase goods immediately and pay for them over a certain period of time. The payment period and interest rates vary depending on the specific BNPL provider.
What are the requirements to use Affirm at Walmart?
To use Affirm at Walmart, customers need to apply for a loan at the point of purchase. Affirm will do a soft credit check to determine eligibility. The decision will depend on a customer’s credit score and other factors. It’s important to note that not all customers may be approved for an Affirm loan.
Does Affirm charge late fees?
No, Affirm does not charge any late fees. However, late or missed payments may affect your credit score and your future eligibility for Affirm financing.
Are there any other stores that have discontinued their layaway programs?
Yes, several other retailers have also discontinued their layaway programs in recent years, including Best Buy and Toys “R” Us. Like Walmart, these stores have cited declining demand and high operational costs as reasons for ending these services.
Can you use Affirm for online purchases at Walmart?
Yes, you can use Affirm for online purchases at Walmart. The option to use Affirm will appear at checkout, and you can apply directly through the website.