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Kohls and Amazon Starting a Trend?

“If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” is an old adage. It applies to today’s retail environment, in which we love ordering stuff online but hate the process to return the stuff we don’t love. Kohls and Amazon may solve our problem while they help themselves with a new program.

Beginning in July, the companies will roll out nationally a program that began two years ago at 100 selected stores in Los Angeles, Chicago and Milwaukee. It should be a win-win-win for consumers, Amazon and Kohls when the program goes operational in some 1,150 locations in 48 states.

We expect to be able to return merchandise that doesn’t work out or when we change our minds. It’s especially true when we buy online because we’re buying it sight-unseen or without having tried on or tried out the product. In a report in the publication Retail Dive, more shoppers than ever factor returns into their purchasing decisions. They cite a report from Stockholm-based payments company Klarna, which shows that 82% of shoppers consider returns a routine part of shopping, while 84% say they’re more likely to buy from a store offering free returns. Sixty-two percent say they wouldn’t purchase from a store that doesn’t offer free returns.

The numbers show online shoppers want a more seamless experience and will reward retailers who deliver it. Nearly half (44%) of respondents say slow returns are the most frustrating part of the returns process, as anyone will attest to. You have to put the product back in the box (a challenge of its own), seal it and bring it to a designated shipper. Still, 86% say they are more likely to return to a retailer that offers free returns.

Clearly, we demand mulligans, and that creates logistics issues for online retailers.

First, Amazon, which could handle 50% of online purchases by 2023, doesn’t have many retail outlets. Yes, you can pick up Amazon-ordered merchandise at Whole Foods, and the company is experimenting with cashless retail stores, which can be pick-up points. But those types of stores are not equipped to take back large volumes of clothing or household goods. The return program with Kohls gives Amazon customers a convenient place to bring back unwanted items, and Kohls must obviously have the logistics network capable of handling the returns.

Kohls can win by getting traffic into its stores. That’s a no-brainer. Just because you return something doesn’t always mean you don’t need the item. Who knows? You might find just what you need or want – in the right size or better style – while you walk through the store. And if you carried an item into a store, you can certainly carry it home.

The return policy covers “eligible” items, which may have something to do with size. You’ll be able to find out when you initiate the return process online, which is a requirement. You’ll need to take care of authorizations and paperwork through your Amazon account.

Our only advice: Make sure you maintain tight security for your network and account passwords. Any questions, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us.