Walmart trims layaway fee to $5 from $15 after shoppers complain

Tue Sep 4, 2012 3:32pm EDT

The Wal-Mart logo is pictured on cash registers at a new store in Chicago, January 24, 2012. The store will open on January 25, and it will be Wal-Mart's largest outlet in Chicago. REUTERS/John Gress

The Wal-Mart logo is pictured on cash registers at a new store in Chicago, January 24, 2012. The store will open on January 25, and it will be Wal-Mart's largest outlet in Chicago.

Credit: Reuters/John Gress

(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) is trimming the fee for this year's U.S. holiday season layaway plan back to $5 after customers complained that the new $15 fee it announced two weeks ago was too high.

Layaway, which allows a customer to keep a product on hold at the store and pay for it over time, helped boost holiday sales for Walmart when it brought the service back in 2011 after a five-year hiatus.

In August, Walmart said it would bring layaway back a month early this year, in mid-September, to give shoppers more time to pay for holiday gifts.

At that time, it said the opening fee for the service would be raised to $15 from $5 and that the fee would be given back in the form of a Walmart gift card if payments are completed on time.

Now, Walmart is retreating to a $5 fee, which will still be refunded with a gift card if shoppers complete their payments.

The reduced fee "is a direct response to feedback we received since announcing this year's holiday layaway program," Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer for Walmart U.S., said in a statement on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, its rival in the toy space, Toys R Us, said it would offer free layaway for all orders created by October 31. After that date a $5 service fee will apply, the world's largest specialty toy retailer said.

Toys R Us Inc TOY.UL introduced layaway in its stores in 2009 for items like bikes, swing sets, dollhouses, play kitchens and more. Since then, it has added new items such as video game hardware and tablets to the list of products eligible for this pay-over-time option. In 2011, layaway was expanded to include all playthings at Toys R Us stores.

(Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago; Additional reporting by Dhanya Skariachan in New York; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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