Shop Talk: Practical Answers for tough business questions.

by : 
Kim Perkins
April 1, 2013

Question: What do you think of lay-away plans? I haven’t offered layaway before, but I’m wondering if it would make it easier for customers to afford higher-end items in this soft economy.

Answer: I may be the wrong person to ask, because I’m not a fan of layaway. In my experience, if someone really wants something, she’ll use a credit card or find another way to pay for it. Plus, most plans I have seen are cumbersome and seem to cause more headaches for the store than any benefit from additional sales.

However, if you create a layaway plan, make it as simple as possible. Make sure the layaway form you develop clearly spells out the terms of the plan: time, payment terms, and what happens in case of default. For instance, you could make it a 30-day period and require 25 percent down and 25 percent each week. If the person misses a payment or doesn’t return to pick up the item, it would be returned to inventory, and the deposit would be nonrefundable. In essence, the deposit would be “rent” for the time the merchandise was not available for sale to other customers.

Kim Perkins is co-owner of Elysian Fields Books & Gifts for Conscious Living (, an award-winning store in Sarasota, Fla. Send your retail questions to