Kohl’s Launches Amazon Mini-Stores, Return Counters

Amazon wants a bigger retail presence in physical stores and for its customers to have an easier time returning things, and Kohl’s wants to shrink its physical stores and rent out some extra space. That sounds like a match, which is probably why Kohl’s and Amazon have teamed up to open their first 10 “Amazon Experience” mini-stores and return counters in Kohl’s stores in Los Angeles and Chicago this week.

While the salespeople in the “Amazon Experience” shops will work for Amazon, the retailers have worked out a deal where Kohl’s employees will staff the Amazon returns counter.

Kohl’s said in its announcement back in September that the retail pals plan to have a total of 82 stores with Amazon shops and Amazon counters running in the Chicago and Los Angeles areas. Kohl’s didn’t specify when the next 72 stores will open, and whether this will be before the peak holiday shopping frenzy.

“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,” Richard Schepp, the Chief Administrative Officer at Kohl’s, said in a statement when the project was announced.

The two companies could work together in other ways, too. While Amazon makes a bigger push into fashion, wouldn’t it be nice to try some of the items on, or to get an idea of the house brand’s sizing? One retail analyst speculated in an interview with CNBC that the Amazon-Kohl’s partnership could expand to include Amazon’s own brands of apparel.

“We could potentially see new Amazon lines popping up in Kohl’s,” apparel analyst Tiffany Hogan told CNBC.

Kohl’s is also experimenting with smaller-format stores, opening four this month, though for the chain that means a 35,000-square-foot building that is 60% smaller than a standard Kohl’s store, yet has 25% less inventory.