Baby boomers and Gen Xers will be all too familiar with having goods on lay-by – putting aside a product at a retail outlet and paying it off over time before collecting it.

Over the past decade or so Australians have bypassed lay-by in preference to using their credit card. However, with Australians becoming more frugal with their spending these days, the lay-by concept is making a welcome comeback. Online retailers – a sector worth more than $10.5 billion and growing rapidly – are also experimenting with lay-by and introducing it to a whole new generation.

Lay-by is not only a good option for consumers, but also for struggling retailers who need to boost sales.

That’s why earlier this year Debitsuccess launched our online lay-by service ‘Total Lay-by’ which enables retailers to process customer lay-by payments with online direct debits.

Total Lay-by was a natural step for us as our core business provides full-service direct debit instalment payment solutions to a wide range of industries, such as health and fitness, sports, insurance and education centres.

If you can pay for your gym membership or sports team season ticket by small regular instalments, why shouldn’t you be able to pay for clothes, or toys or a TV in the same way? All of this is about making things easier for the consumer.

The resurgence of consumer interest in the lay-by option is a sign of the times.

Since 2008 the number of lay-by contracts doubled at Kmart and Sears. And in America, Walmart abandoned its lay-by program in 2006 but revived it again last year to help its customers buy items for the Christmas season.

It is appealing to retailers and consumers that have had enough of maxed-out credit cards, and are returning to the tried-and-true responsible method of instalment payments.

Compared to the traditional lay-by systems, the new lay-by offering from Debitsuccess can be set-up either in store or online.

The key difference is a direct debit authority form is completed which entitles the retailer to debit the customer’s account on a recurring basis. This is better for both parties as the retailer is not reliant on the customer to have to do anything else after the initial purchase.

Times are still tough for retailers, but with the Total Lay-by service they will have access to a paperless, fully secure service for processing customer lay-by purchases, which will expand their ability to secure income and satisfy the needs of today’s consumer.

We expect that by resurrecting the lay-by option, retailers will be able to claw back some of their customers who have struggled with maxed-out credit cards.