Can't rustle up the cash right now for that ski trip to Denver this winter? Not to worry—just put it on layaway.
Starting Wednesday, Sears customers can plan and book hotel stays, cruises, flights, and car rentals through the company's new travel website, but have the option to pay off the tab for the trip little by little. The Hoffman Estates-based retailer is also offering vacation packages for around $400, also available for layaway.
Layaway programs have gained popularity in recent years as traditional consumer credit dried up in the wake of the Great Recession. Especially around the holidays, popular stores such as T.J. Maxx and Toys"R"Us revived their layaway programs, giving an option to consumers whose budgets might be a little pinched.
But while layaway might be a convenient way for some shoppers to stay on budget during the holidays, experts caution against using the program to pay for a vacation.
"If you have to finance your vacation in any way, including layaway, you probably can't afford to go," says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com.
Sears' latest foray into the online retail space might refresh its image and diversify its business base, but not everyone is confident the new endeavor will succeed, especially given that the company will be going head-to-head with industry heavyweights such as Expedia, Orbitz, and AAA.
"Sears is known for appliances and durable goods that are in your home, and travel is anything but in your home," Carroll Rheem, senior director of research at travel research firm PhoCusWright, told the Chicago Tribune. "There's a lot of trust (in Sears) but at the same time, they are not travel experts."
But while Sears might be leaning heavily on the boon of brand name recognition, they're not leaving the fledgling operation completely up to chance. According to a release, the new vacation service will be powered by International Cruise & Excursions, Inc., which will provide "travel fulfillment and customer service" out of its Scottsdale, Ariz. headquarters.
Meg Handley is a business reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter.