Buy now, pay later? Layaway apps see triple-digit growth amid pandemic shopping

With over 11 million people still unemployed due to the pandemic, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sephora, Target and Amazon are some of the hundreds of retailers who are offering shoppers a way to parse out interest-free payments debited from a bank account over time for holiday gifts instead of forcing consumers to pay with high-interest credit cards.

“The millennials and Gen Z generation saw their parents go through an immense amount of hardship [during the financial crisis] where the American consumer was over-leveraged,” Rafe Petkovic, chief revenue officer of Columbus, Ohio-based payment solutions company Klarna, told NBC News. “Today’s consumers are certainly wising up, and that has been a significant acceleration in the market opportunity here today.”

Already, consumers have used their money differently from the generation that survived the Great Recession. In the first three months of 2020, consumers improved their average credit scores and decreased delinquencies across all debt, according to a September analysis by Experian credit-reporting agency. However, in 2008, going into the recession, consumer debt spiked by 4 percent, credit scores went up by just two points and delinquencies were reduced at a slower rate than today’s borrowers.