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It’s not even Halloween yet and some of the most popular holiday toys are already selling out. The reason behind the early start: the growing popularity of layaway plans.

Holiday layaway programs are pretty much a win-win for consumers and retailers. In a touch economy, shoppers need time to pay off their purchases and brick-and-mortar stores need to find ways to compete with online retailers. Layaway plans are especially popular this year at stores like Wal-Mart, Toys “R” Us, Kmart, and Sears because the programs are starting earlier—giving consumers more time to pay—and because many have dropped service fees.

Additionally, for the first time, Toys “R” Us is allowing shoppers to reserve any of the 50 toys on its hot list. As a result, the company has already had to stop taking reservations for the Wii U gaming console and certain kids electronic tablets until it receives additional shipments. And come December, some children will have to make do with the “plum fairy” Furby doll because all the available “pink puff” and “voodoo purple” models have been claimed.

What about you? We know it’s really early, but have you started buying your holiday gifts?

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