News Feature | October 2, 2017

Kohl's To Handle Amazon Returns

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Kohls Store

Beginning in October, customers can visit one of 82 Kohl’s stores for free, convenient Amazon returns.

At a time when most retailers are beefing up their digital strategies to better compete with Amazon, Kohl’s seems to be taking a different approach. In the spirit of, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” the retailer has announced that, in addition to the opening of the “Amazon smart home experience” at 10 Kohl’s stores in October, 82 Kohl’s locations will also be offering free, convenient Amazon returns to shoppers.

Michelle Gass, Kohl’s chief merchandising and customer officer, discussed the creation of the smart home spaces, stating “Kohl’s and Amazon share a customer obsession and we’ve joined together to leverage each other’s strengths and deliver a great customer experience customers can only find at Kohl’s.”

The Amazon returns service will be available at 82 stores across Los Angeles and Chicago, beginning in October. Kohl’s will pack and ship eligible return items for free from its Kohl’s stores.

“We are thrilled to launch this unprecedented and innovative concept, allowing customers to bring in their unpackaged Amazon returns to Kohl’s and we will pack them, ship them, and return them to Amazon for free,” explained Richard Schepp, Chief Administrative Officer for Kohl’s. “This is a great example of how Kohl’s and Amazon are leveraging each other’s strengths – the power of Kohl’s store portfolio and omnichannel capabilities combined with the power of Amazon’s reach and loyal customer base.”

Kohl’s has also created designated parking spots near the store entrance for Amazon returns customers.  Items can be returned free of charge regardless of return reason.

“Amazon Returns at Kohl’s creates a convenient location for Amazon customers to return eligible merchandise,” stated Shivi Shankaran, Director of Worldwide Customer Returns at Amazon. “Teaming up with Kohl’s provides an incredible opportunity to pair our world-class return experience with a great shopping experience, expanding our service options to our customers in the Los Angeles and Chicago areas.”

Time will tell if this partnership is really in Kohl’s best interests. The move represents an effort by  Kohl’s to ally itself with the e-commerce giant as analysts fear that Amazon will swallow up retail stores, especially after it made a successful transition into the groceries industry with the Whole Foods acquisition. Amazon has launched a similar service through Whole Foods, where shoppers can return purchases made on at the grocer's more than 400 stores.

Notably, for Kohl's this deal could lure consumers into stores to make a return, where they might later shop. And falling foot traffic has become a threatening trend for many retailers this year.

"The test ... is an intelligent way for Kohl's to: (a) leverage unutilized parts of its store footprint and (b) help improve frequency (and potentially drive sales higher) in its stores," Gordon Haskett analyst Chuck Grom wrote in a note to clients. "All told, we like the moves Kohl's is taking as it continue to think outside the box and forward think on how to evolve in today's quickly changing backdrop," He added.