Layaway is a system of making payments for merchandise without paying the full cost up front. It was developed during the Great Depression and remained popular until credit cards became more prevalent. Layaway plans allow customers to set an item aside at a store and make incremental payments. Once the item is paid in full, the buyer can take it home.
Layaway programs typically have a stocking or holding fee because items are held while waiting for payment. If a customer is not able to complete the transaction and make all of the payments required, the item is returned to stock and the customer's money is, in most cases, returned.
Though many major retailers have dropped their in-store layaway programs, several online layaway sites have cropped up to fill that gap. Online layaway programs now link directly to the customers’ checking account and make scheduled payments until the cost of an item is reached. These programs tend to offer a wider variety of brand-name products than layaway programs of the past.