Kohl’s 1,100 Stores Become Amazon ‘Return Centers’

Yesterday traditional retailer Kohl’s said it will accept returns for Amazon products at all of its stores. The policy will commence in July. The company has more than 1,100 retail locations in the US.

Amazon and Kohl’s have had a partnership since 2017 and the latter has been selling selected Amazon products in some of its stores. The Amazon partnership is one of several that the store has initiated in an effort to lure new and younger shoppers. The company also has relationships with Planet Fitness and European grocery chain Aldi.

According to CNBC, citing Earnest Research, sales at Kohl’s Chicago locations (where Amazon returns have been accepted since 2017) have seen more new customer and sales growth compared with other locations nationally. This would appear to validate the Amazon “return center” experiment.

This shared store or store-within-a-store model isn’t new but it may be the way forward for other retailers as they try to bring new energy and experiences to their traditional store locations. Groceries, in particular, is an area that both Walmart and Target have bet big on.

It will be interesting to see now whether other retailers move to accept Amazon returns.

The ability to return products to nearby stores was one of traditional retail’s three main advantages compared with Amazon. (In most cases, in-store staff and sales associates are not an advantage because of generally poor training and indifferent customer service.) The others were the ability to touch and see products before buying and immediate access to purchases. Offline locations support e-commerce by giving consumers confidence to buy knowing they can return a product locally if it isn’t right.

The Kohl’s “return center” partnership could thus increase Amazon’s e-commerce dominance over rivals. Amazon is responsible for nearly 60% of online sales, which totaled about $142 billion last year. By comparison Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, sold more than $500 billion worth of goods in 2018.

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