The customer spoke, and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) listened.

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The country’s largest retailer is offering its layaway program for the second year on the trot, and what’s more, the company is making it available a full month earlier than last year. The layaway facility allows customers to put goods on hold and pay for them gradually without being subject to the risk of volatile prices.

“Our customer was saying if they had two more paycheck cycles, that really would be helpful for them,” said Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) U.S., in the context of the continuing hesitancy of the consumer amidst a weak economic scenario.

The scheme was a success when it was re-introduced after a five year hiatus last year, and stated to be the factor behind Wal-Mart’s good showing during the holiday season.

This year there are a few changes, with the line expanded to include small appliances and large sporting items, such as exercise equipment. Of course, like last year, layaways can also be used on electronics, toys, and jewelry. Wal-Mart has ensured, in co-operation with brand manufacturers, that some of the most desirable gift items will be available during the earlier layaway launch, and these include the iPad, Vizio Smart 3D HDTVs, Lego The Mine, and HP Ultrabook Laptops.

“Last year, millions of Americans relied on layaway at Walmart to provide a great Christmas for their families. Because of their feedback, we’re offering the service again this year and making it better than ever,” said Mac Naughton.

Earlier access to layaway shopping starts September 14. Besides, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) will refund the layaway opening fee of $15 given on a gift card for those customers making the final payment. This year, shoppers have up to 90 days to pay for the layaway items (instead of 60 days last year), and no cancellation fees apply.

It may be noted that their rival, Kmart, has a layaway option on offer round the year, while retailer Toys R Us also expanded its program recently.