Heather Watts navigated fully stocked aisles at Toys R Us, vowing to finish her Christmas shopping by Halloween.
"I'm starting early this year, so I can be done by the end of next month," said Watts.
To help achieve her goals, she was utilizing the toy store's layaway program on Wednesday morning.
"They have a lot of the (gifts) here that my kids want, and they have lower prices," she said.
Though Toys R Us has offered its layaway program for the last few years, the retailer announced this month that it will not charge a fee on items reserved by Oct. 31. After that date, a $5 service fee will be charged.
Andrew Moore, a customer service representative in the electronics department, said Toys R Us at 1410 Kenneth Road in West Manchester Township is registering a lot of layaways this year.
"Because there are no up-front fees, we've seen a huge influx," he said.
Comeback: Layaway programs, which allow customers to purchase items by
paying in installments, are making a comeback as the economy continues to recover after the recession, according to the National Retail Federation.
Many major retailers are offering or revamping their layaway programs as the holiday shopping season begins, catering to consumers who don't have the cash or credit on hand to pay the full price of their desired items.
At Toys R Us, customers can start a layaway by making a 20 percent down payment and must pay 50 percent of the order's balance within 45 days. The layaway must be paid in full by Dec. 16, a spokeswoman said.
The program has grown in popularity during a recovering economy, but managing money is just one reason people choose layaway, said Adrienne O'Hara, Toys R Us spokeswoman.
"Some shoppers just try to cross off their list early and take advantage of great opportunities, and others don't want to miss out on an opportunity to get an item," O'Hara said.
Shoppers: Haddas Logan is one of those shoppers.
Layaway is a great option to "make sure you get what you're looking for," she said.
Logan, a Stewartstown resident, said she used layaway programs frequently in the past. Now that old-fashioned plan is making a comeback, she intends to shop that way again.
"In this economy, nobody can afford to buy everything all at once," Logan said.
Pushing a full shopping cart through the large toy store, Tina Chinault said she will also use the layaway program at Toys R Us.
Chinault, a York resident who has six grandkids, said it's a smart move economically.
"That way I don't have to spend $2,000 at one time," she said.
Changes: In addition to Toys R Us, Chinault has used the layaway program at Walmart.
To attract more orders, Walmart has started its layaway program a month earlier this year and reduced its layaway fees from $15 to $5. The program started Sunday and will continue through Dec. 14.
Also new this year, Walmart is offering consumers a $5 gift card once their layaway item is paid in full. The item must cost at least $15, and the total layaway purchase must total at least $50.
Gloria Pozivak was one of the Walmart customers starting her Christmas shopping early on Wednesday afternoon.
"I have four grandbabies, and they are my life. Shopping for them is a real joy," the Dover grandmother said.
But because she is also a self-described "senior on a fixed income," Pozivak takes advantage of layaway programs to lighten the financial load.
"Layaways are great. You don't need to run up credit cards or spend a bunch of money all at once. You can spend a little here and there and still get what you need," she said.
-- Candy Woodall can also be reached at cwoo email@example.com.