Christmas clubs are back. That can't be a great omen for retailers.
Christmas clubs, for those of you who don't remember a president before Ronald Reagan, are savings plans consumers use when they expect financially leaner holidays. Some people think the plans are kitschy and a bad deal. They're wrong.
Sears and Kmart, which are pushing the plans this year, are the same two retailers who resuscitated layaway plans last year. However, Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, phased out its layaway program three years ago and appears to be counting on cutting prices to win customers. Discounts and instant gratification are always winners.
Even that looks a bit dicey this time around. Some retailers ran into a new competitor during the just ended Halloween season, which has become sort of a warm up for Christmas. Home made gifts. Merchants are fighting back.
Plus there is one more Christmas shopping budget stretcher retailers worry about. Shoplifting, already a $30 billion dollar business in the U.S. by FBI estimates, appears to be on the rise, the National Retail Federation.
Remember to turn off the home alarm for Santa.