Department stores and big name retailers are increasingly making the hard sell to sign up customers for credit cards at the register. The store cards promise deep discounts on clothing, furniture and electronics, and are tough for shoppers to resist.
For some retailers, those credit cards are not just a sales tool, but also an essential way to bolster their struggling businesses — a trend that has worrisome implications for the industry and its customers.
The store cards, with steep interest rates that are often twice that of the average credit card, generate a rich profit stream for retailers at a time when many of America’s traditional retailers are losing the battle for sales against Amazon and other e-commerce rivals. Those profits on plastic are helping obscure the true extent of the industry’s pain, a major pressure point for a piece of the economy that employs one in 10 Americans.