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CNBC reports that just weeks after announcing that it will begin selling Amazon’s Alexa-powered devices and Kindles at 10 of its stores, department store chain Kohl’s said that some of its stores will begin accepting Amazon returns, packing and shipping eligible items to Amazon fulfillment centers for free.

Not only will Kohl’s take Amazon returns, but it also will designate certain parking spaces near store entrances as being specifically for Amazon customers making returns.

According to the story, “Starting next month, the Amazon return service will be available at 82 Kohl's stores across Los Angeles and Chicago. Kohl's hasn't said when the service will expand to other markets, but this looks to be just the beginning of Amazon using retailers' real estate to its advantage.

“In acquiring supermarket chain Whole Foods, Amazon has launched a similar service, where shoppers can return purchases made on Amazon.com at the grocer's more than 400 stores … Sears marks another retailer that recently signed a deal with Amazon, aiming to sell more of its appliances, and those with Alexa capabilities, through the internet giant's platform.”

Richard Schepp, Kohl's chief administrative officer, said in a prepared statement that “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.”
KC's View:
There’s a part of me that thinks that while Kohl’s appears to be bending over backwards to accommodate Amazon and its customers, what it really is doing is bending over forward, and the long-term result is inevitable.

As we talked about in this morning’s Innovation Conversation, partnerships can be important … but Kohl’s in this case is not just selling devices that will allow people to buy the products it sells from Amazon, but now also is giving its competitor’s customers preferred parking. I think the message to its traditional customers is pretty clear … and not helpful in terms of its long-term credibility.