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Retail Roundup: Layaway Boom in E-Commerce, Chicago Mall Employs New Strategy, and More

Layaway options crop up on e-commerce sites -- While layaway services were made popular during the Great Depression, today's economic downturn calls for a modern twist on the classic payment option, and eLayaway LLC is stepping forward. The company now has 1,000 participating merchants and recently launched an online shopping mall to get retailers started. eLayway allows consumers to pay for products in monthly installments at a flat fee based on 1.9 percent of the purchase. Layaway has become increasingly popular in other channels as well; the service has become so common at K-Mart that the chain even boasted about its layaway option in a national advertising campaign. [Source: internetretailer]

Chicago mall employs new tactic --- Woodfield Mall, a Chicago-area shopping center that ranks among the nation's largest retail venues, has developed a new strategy to battle the down economy: Drive consumers to the mall -- literally. Buses will be dispatched to downtown Chicago hotels, and shoppers will be transported to the suburban mall throughout the holiday season. This year marks the first time the mall has taken such drastic measures to draw in consumers, but after a harsh September and October, Woodfield's not the only retailer going to the extreme. "The retailer can't succeed unless they get people into the store," said Dan de Grandpre, founder of DealNews.com. [Source: Chicago Tribune]

Retailers latch onto election buzz -- Because the upcoming holiday season doesn't appear to be exciting enough to prod consumers into opening their wallets, retailers are hoping they can instead make the anticipation of the presidential election work in their favor. Online retailer Bluefly.com is welcoming shoppers to its site to vote on which VP candidate is "rocking statement glasses" the hardest: Joe Biden with his aviator shades or Sarah Palin with her famed frameless spectacles. Meanwhile, designer Tracy Reese is hosting an election party at her New York store where voters can watch the results roll in while drinking cocktails and purchasing discounted apparel. Also cashing in on the election are J. Crew and White House|Black Market, both of whom advertised the fact that Michelle Obama wore their garb during TV appearances. [Source: Heard on the Runway]

Verizon makes sure employees know competitors' weaknesses --- With plenty of stiff competition in the cell-phone market, Verizon Wireless is taking an aggressive approach toward handling its competitors by providing sales reps with a list of "talking points" detailing what competitor T-Mobile's G1 Android phone is lacking. Verizon distributed a similar list of talking points criticizing the Apple iPhone earlier this year. [Source: Information Week]

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