With the holiday shopping season upon us, and an intensely difficult economy surrounding us, retailers are coming up with creative solutions to responsibly entice customers and to survive the season.

Since a majority of Americans planning to spend less on gifts this year*, how can retailers attract holiday shoppers?

Sears launched a new program this year called the Christmas Club Card. It works as a debit card, but it incentivizes shoppers to plan ahead and start saving for holiday purchases early. Sears adds a 3% bonus to your card based on the balance on midnight, 11/14. They provide a savings chart and guidance so you can personally fund your gift purchases without generating credit card debt. Sears benefits from the program by bringing in early holiday revenue and locking in purchases in their stores.


It’s back. While Walmart ended their layaway program in 2006, other large retailers and e-tailers, such as Sears, Marshalls, Burlington Coat Factory, and Kmart are cashing in. Paying for a purchase over time allows consumers to spend what they can afford (often with a small fee), without the risk of losing the investment or incurring major credit card debt if they can’t complete the payments.

“In 2008, searches for the term ‘layaway’ jumped as consumer awareness increased. Layaway programs effectively drove early purchases with the peak for search-term variations that included ‘layaway’ taking place last year during the five weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.” (From The 2009 Holiday Marketer: Benchmark and Trend Report by Experian Marketing Services.)

Keep the Change

Bank of America’s Keep the Change® program has been in place since 2005, and is another inventive way to encourage customers to use their debit cards for purchases. Each purchase is rounded up to the nearest dollar, with the difference going into your a savings account. B of A matches a small percentage of the savings, up to $250 annually.

What other programs have you heard of companies employing to encourage responsible consumer spending?


-Jennifer Pritchard

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