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Layaway became popular during the Great Depression. Before the most recent recession, easy credit had made it largely a thing of the past. But when credit dried up and the job market soured, Sears, Toys R Us and other merchants added back or expanded the service.
Toys R Us introduced its layaway program in stores in 2009 for bigger items like bikes, swing sets, and play kitchens, and has added more categories each year. In 2011, layaway was expanded to include all items at Toys R Us and most items at Babies R Us.
Citing increased costs and lower customer demand, Wal-Mart phased out its layaway in September 2006 -- roughly a year before the recession began -- with the exception of jewelry. But the discounter faced criticism because it built its reputation on helping the low-income shoppers.
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