For years, I rarely had any desire to shop at Kohl's. Walmart and Costco had lower prices. Target had more character. So, unless there was a special sale or you had a great coupon, Kohl's was an afterthought.

That's about to change, due to an unlikely partnership--with Amazon.

Yesterday, Kohl's announced that beginning in July 2019, customers can return products bought on Amazon to all Kohl's locations--more than 1,150 across the country. 

Kohl's' stock soared after the announcement.

For months, customers have been able to walk into select Kohl's stores and return something they bought on Amazon, even without the original packaging, box, or even a label. Kohl's then uses its own resources to package the product and its logistics infrastructure to ship it back to Amazon.

I recently wrote about the genius of this collaboration and the service it spawned. While most retailers were struggling to survive the Amazon apocalypse, Kohl's invited the e-commerce giant into its stores with open arms.

And this recent announcement has potential to produce seismic change in the way people shop.

Why this is a game-changer.

The world of e-commerce has exploded in the past decade, turning Amazon into one of the most successful companies in the world. 

But think about it: What is the worst thing about shopping online?

It's got to be returning items.

Without being able to see a product before you buy it, there's no way to know the quality. No way to see if it fits. No way to know if the picture online really shows what you're going to get.

Now, plenty of people are willing to take that risk. And returns are pretty easy with Amazon (most of the time). But they still require you packing up the product and printing a label--which can become pretty inconvenient if you threw away the original packaging, or if you don't happen to have a printer.

Enter Kohl's. Their promise to make a simple process even simpler, a relatively easy task even easier, is absolutely brilliant--especially in a world where convenience is king. 

But this development could just as easily become a boon to Amazon's growth.

Think about it: Amazon knows there are certain advantages to having a physical presence. That's why the company has attempted to enter the brick-and-mortar space--with limited success. In fact, Amazon recently announced plans to close all 87 of its physical retail spaces in the U.S. (which the company referred to as "pop-up kiosks").

Analysts framed the decision as a complete failure.

But with Kohl's recent announcement, the decision looks a lot less like defeat--and a lot more like a brilliant change in strategy. After all, why spend money to continue to develop physical retail space, when you have an eager partner who's already firmly established?

"Amazon and Kohl's have a shared passion in providing outstanding customer service, and this unique partnership combines Kohl's strong nationwide store footprint and omnichannel capabilities with Amazon's reach and customer loyalty," Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass​ said in a statement. "This new service is another example of how Kohl's is delivering innovation to drive traffic to our stores and bring more relevance to our customers."

Amazon gets physical retail presence.

Kohl's gets more customers into stores, who are likely to buy other products.

Customers get a hassle-free way to return products they buy online.

That's what I call win-win-win. 

And that's why this announcement could change the way people shop for a very, very long time.

Published on: Apr 24, 2019
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