Christmas in August: Walmart to Launch Layaway Plan

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(NEW YORK) — The calendar may still say summer but retail giant Walmart is encouraging consumers to get in the Christmas spirit now.

With Labor Day more than a week away, the world’s largest retailer is scheduled to launch its holiday season layaway plan four months before Dec. 25.

“Toy Week and the kick-off of our layaway program is about being there for those customers who are starting to think about and plan their holiday shopping — we know not everybody is there yet, but for those who are, we want to make sure they have everything they need,” Walmart said in a statement to ABC News.

Starting Friday, two weeks earlier than it did last season, Walmart will allow customers to pay for nearly 40,000 items in installments. Shoppers will have 90 days to pay for their items. Merchandise will need to cost at least $10 and the total of items under layaway must reach $50, according to the company.

“Retailers want to get customers as soon as possible and Walmart’s jumping the gun,” said Business Insider’s Ashley Lutz. “They’re saying, ‘Spend all of your money here in August. Then you won’t have money to spend in other places.”

Customers will also get a sneak peek at the season’s top toys before the competition. According to market research company NPD Group, toy sales this year are projected to climb 6.2 percent to nearly $20 billion, thanks in large part to the new “Star Wars” movie due out in December.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is produced by Walt Disney Pictures. Walt Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

Starting Sept. 4, Walmart will stock its shelves with 500 “Star Wars” items, according to the company. It’s also hosting 24-hour “Force Friday” events at 2,900 locations. Toys “R” Us also plans to join in the action with its own “Star Wars” midnight events.

In the retailer’s case, it’s hoping the Force will indeed be with it.

“Customers, fans, collectors and even wookies from across the galaxy are counting on us to bring them the hottest toys at the best prices and we won’t let them down,” Walmart said.

ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis contributed to this report.

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