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How retailers are implementing buy now, pay later options this holiday season

Shoppers are encouraged to take advantage of buy now, pay later (BNPL) options to offset some of the stress from a shopping season marked by strong consumer demand, rising inflation, product shortages, and smaller discounts from retailers.

Also in time for the holidays, BNPL is moving from online to in-store. This year, US holiday retail sales will hit a record $1.147 trillion with 81.6% of that coming from in-store shopping. Increasing the availability of BNPL in stores via retail partnerships will be critical to getting providers in on the return to in-person shopping during the peak holiday season.

  • Klarna has announced agreements with major US mall operators Macerich and Simon as well as Macy’s and FreedomPay, to expand in-store BNPL offerings. At Macy’s, for example, shoppers can pay for purchases with one-time virtual cards created in the Klarna app and stored in their digital wallets.
  • Afterpay is sending shoppers on augmented reality (AR)-linked scavenger hunts through select Westfield shopping centers to unlock holiday deals via QR codes that can be redeemed at mall retailers that accept Afterpay.
  • For the first time in its 60-year history, Walmart is doing away with traditional layaway plans in favor of BNPL, thanks to its partnership with Affirm, which will be promoted via TV walls in more than 3,900 Walmart stores. Prominent placement of BNPL offerings in stores will also help expand the user base to draw in consumers who make fewer purchases online, such as the typical Walmart consumer who is in the 55-to-64 age range.
  • According to Deloitte’s 2021 Pre-Thanksgiving Pulse Survey, 30% of respondents plan to use BNPL to stretch their holiday budgets, compared with 35% who will use credit cards. Additionally, a Morning Consult survey found 35% of BNPL shoppers expect to spend $500 or more on their installment-plan holiday purchases, compared with 25% of respondents overall.

Initial reports from Cyber Week indicate these strategies are working. PayPal CEO Dan Schulman said there were more than 750,000 BNPL transactions on Black Friday, a nearly 400% year-over-year (YoY) increase, while Afterpay reported a 34% increase in orders on Black Friday and Cyber Monday with in-store transactions up 442% YoY.