Have you heard about the latest blurring of lines between online purchases from Amazon and the bricks and mortar world of retailing? Starting this month, Kohl’s has announced that customers will be able to use 82 of their locations for BARIS — my term for Buy from Amazon, Return in Store.

In an official statement, Kohl’s Chief Administrator Richard Schepp said “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.  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.”

Shivi Shankaran, Director of Worldwide Customer Returns at Amazon adds, “Amazon Returns at Kohl’s creates a convenient location for Amazon customers to return eligible Amazon.com merchandise. 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.”

Ten Kohl’s stores in these cities will also offer Amazon gadgets such as Kindles and Fire tablets, as well as accessories and smart home products like the Echo speaker.  These 1,000 square foot “smart home spaces” will be staffed by Amazon sales associates.

This store-within-a-store concept is of course not new. Department stores have been leasing space to outside vendors for many years, especially in the cosmetics fields.  But the idea of taking another business’s returns for them must be unique.  

As Shannon Liao says in the blog The Verge, ”[this] move is Kohl’s allying 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.”  While Kohl’s taking Amazon returns may not immediately impact independent retailers, any action by this giant competitor bears watching.  We don’t want to see real stores reduced to just a place to ship back unwanted Amazon purchases.

Happy Retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder