Starting in July, Amazon returns will be possible at all Kohl's more than 1,150 locations across 48 states, the department store said on Tuesday. Kohl's will accept eligible Amazon items, with or without a box or label, according to a Kohl's press release.
The tie-up that has the retailer taking free returns for Amazon customers began as a pilot in 2017 and has since expanded to 100 stores in Los Angeles, Chicago and Milwaukee, according to the release.
Kohl's said it's also carrying Amazon products like its Echo devices in more than 200 stores, although Amazon is shuttering the kiosks it had been running in some Kohl's stores. The e-commerce giant shuttered those 87 operations and is "instead expanding Amazon Books and Amazon 4-star," according to an earlier email to Retail Dive.
Returns are pressuring any retailer that sells online, and Amazon dominates that space, on pace to control half of all U.S. e-commerce in a couple of years.
And returns are expensive in a number of ways: complicating fulfillment and delivery, adding to costs and subtracting from sales, along with being detrimental to the environment. Retail analyst Natalie Berg, founder at NBK Retail, told Retail Dive last year that she thought more retailers would have made progress by now, and calls the problem of returns "a ticking time bomb" for this year.
Customers, however, expect to be able to return merchandise that doesn't work out or when they change their minds, and that's all the more true when they buy online. In fact, more shoppers than ever are factoring returns into their purchasing decisions, according to a report from Stockholm-based payments company Klarna. That research found that 82% of shoppers thought returns were a routine part of shopping, 84% said they're more likely to buy from a store offering free returns, and 62% said they wouldn't make a purchase from a store that didn't offer free returns.
That makes this kind of tie-up a win-win. Amazon, which doesn't have a lot of physical locations of its own, makes it easier for customers to make returns, as Kohl's packages and sends items to Amazon returns centers, according to Tuesday's release. Meanwhile, research shows that Kohl's is getting boosts in traffic and sales. The two-way boon is also likely behind Walgreens' and other retailers' recent effort, through logistics platform Narvar, to take each other's returns and online purchase pickups.