Big W is running one of its biggest annual events, their "Total Toy Domination" sale where you can purchase a whole range of toys at heavily discounted prices. However, this year they've rather surprisingly decided to limit payment and delivery of online orders to a layby-only basis.
I’ve done a little bit of research into this layby scheme to try and figure out whether or not it makes sense on any level, as well as getting an idea of what other stores are offering in this respect. If you are contemplating going on layby for your Christmas shopping, this post will give you a good overview of the pros (a term used lightly in this instance) and cons.
A layby sale basically allows you to place an order to reserve an item ($50 minimum spend required), and subsequently pay for it over a pre-set period. For this Big W sale, you will be given around 12 weeks to make payment. Once fully paid for, the items will be delivered between November 3rd and December 1st 2014 in time for the festive period.
Essentially the whole premise of a layby sale is that it allows customers to secure items before they get snapped up during the holiday season. By allowing you to pay through instalments, it is also intended to be a good budgeting tool, particularly for people who don’t have a lot of disposable cash on a monthly basis and who may not be able to purchase a pricey item up front.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the layby scheme with Big W is that goods are only available for collection or delivery in November. So even if you choose to pay off your layby early or pay in full and opt to click and collect, you will only be able to take delivery of the items in November.
This, I believe, will be the sticking point for the majority of Australian customers as what Big W has essentially done is remove their right to purchase a toy online and have it delivered immediately. With no reasoning given to clearly explain the logic behind this decision, all we can do is assume that is it has been made to perhaps address some deeper underlying issues internally - as it certainly wasn't made with the customer's best interests in mind.
This lack of flexibility in delivery timeframes means that this sale is really only a viable option for the Christmas and New Year period, not for birthdays and other celebrations between now and November. If you take a look at this Buckscoop deal post for a Mattel Pictionary set, you can see commentary which includes a limited response from a Big W support staff member who was asked about the company's reasoning for implementing layby-only purchases.
A Comparison of Layby Schemes Across Retailers
The table below sets out some of the information on laybys offered by Big W and other popular stores for toys.
As far as layby's go we can see that Big W has one of the more attractive plans with no upfront deposit required, a negligible administrative fee and the convenience of online payment. On the downside, the fees for cancellation may be higher than at other outlets like Target where it is just $5.
One of the plus points of the Big W layby which is not mentioned in the table, is the fact that you can log on and easily manage your layby payments. You have the option of deferring payments or adjusting your monthly amount according to how much you can afford to pay in that particular month.
Does This Toy Sale Represent Good Value Though?
If you've clicked on the link mentioned above for the deal on the Mattel Pictionary set, you'll see that there's no denying the fact that many of Big W's toy prices are unbeatable online. So yes, there certainly is good value to be had if patience is one of your virtues and you're happy to hold off until the last two months of the year to receive your orders.
What you need to take into consideration though, is that despite Big W's lower than average administration fee for layby purchases (see table above) it's the cancellation fee that could render a good deal an expensive mistake if you decide to change your mind about a purchase.
Buying toys early on also means you miss out on the pre-Christmas sales; where prices could possibly get even lower. It’s not clear what the procedure is for price drops between the start of the layby and the final payment. From what I can gather from the online forums, in the event that the item goes on sale at an even lower price, you will probably have to cancel the layby and pay the forfeiture sum before making the sale purchase. And based on the high cancellation fee, this would only make sense for more expensive items.
In the past couple of years, there have been hiccups with layby purchases. Notably I found a number of disgruntled Big W customers whose items were not delivered or even in stock by the agreed upon date. This minor fiasco happened about two years ago and the store seems to have taken measures to correct the problem, nevertheless it is a factor that should be kept in mind.
More recently there have been reports of people having difficulty accessing the site and having problems adding items to their cart during the layby sale period.
In terms of making payments on time though, Big W definitely has the most convenient system with online payments, email reminders when your payment is almost due, as well as flexibility in managing and adjusting the amount paid in each instalment.
Out Of Style
The other consideration that cannot be ignored is the fact that things go out of style very quickly. This month’s hottest toy is going to be a has-been by the time Christmas rolls around. The Christmas period is also a time where lots of new toys get launched, so what seems like the perfect Christmas present in July may not be such a hot pick come December. In the case of electronic toys and games there is also the possibility of new editions being released.
Overall unless you don’t have a credit card or have financial difficulties, the layby scheme doesn’t seem to be the best option. The lack of flexibility and possibility of missing out on a better price (or a better toy) during the Christmas period makes me less inclined to get on the layby train.