By Kristin Jones
Sears Holdings Corp.'s (>> Sears Holdings Corporation) Kmart stores will remove its layaway service fee online and in store from Sept. 7 through Nov. 17, as the retailer continues to promote the popular service.
Kmart's free layaway is intended to ease customers' budget concerns and "make holiday shopping less stressful," said Jai Holtz, vice president of financial services at Sears.
The layaway plan allows customers to reserve items at their current price and pay for them over time in installments. Kmart said it will waive its $5 fee on an eight-week contract and the $10 fee on a 12-week contract initiated in-store.
Layaway has made a comeback since the recession, as customers rely less on credit cards.
Rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (>> Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.) recently backed away from a higher proposed fee of $15 for its layaway service, which is available during the holiday season. Wal-Mart now charges a fee of $5 to open a layaway account, refundable in the form of a gift card after the customer makes a final payment.
Kmart offers its layaway program throughout the year. In July, the retailer took the unusual step of giving customers a discount to use its layaway program for the back-to-school season, which ended Aug. 25.
Sears shares rose 34 cents in recent trading to $57.71. The stock is up 82% so far this year.
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