updated 10/19/2009 8:12:22 AM ET 2009-10-19T12:12:22

Toys R Us Inc. is introducing a layaway program for larger-ticket items such as bikes and cribs ahead of the holiday season, the company said Monday.

The largest U.S. toy retailer said the program is effective immediately in stores nationwide. Customers can put a variety of items on hold and make a series of payments until the item is paid in full.

Layaway programs are financing agreements in which retailers — without charging interest — hold merchandise for customers until they have finished paying in installments.

Popular during the Great Depression, layaway had become largely a thing of the past before the recession hit. But Sears expanded its program for the holidays last year, and due to its popularity Sears and Kmart introduced an online option this year.

Retailers who have introduced the programs see them as a way to keep customers buying in a time of tight credit and other economic problems. Toys R Us CEO Gerald Storch said his company's customers were requesting a layaway program.

There's currently no online layaway at Toys R Us, though there might be in the future, the company said. The Wayne, N.J.-based company said the program is likely to keep going after the holidays, though terms may change.

Products included in the program include bikes, dollhouses, play kitchen, karaoke machines, car seats, cribs, strollers and other items.

Customers putting a product on layaway must deposit 20 percent of the item's price, all applicable taxes and a $10 service charge. Payments may be made in stores at any time. Items must be paid for by Dec. 6 to be available for pickup before Christmas, the company said, and items will be available seven to 10 days after the final payment.

A $5 fee applies to canceled orders. Terms may vary by state.

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