Brick-and-mortar retailers have found a new calling in the age of e-commerce: As pickup and drop-off sites for online purchases.
Kohl’s this month began accepting Amazon returns at its stores, calling the arrangement its “single biggest initiative of the year.” Now CVS, Michael’s and Advanced Auto Parts stores are joining the fray, as delivery spots for UPS orders.
The initiative adds 12,000 stores to UPS’s network of “access points,” where customers can retrieve their packages, print out labels and drop off returns. Demand for those services has grown, UPS executives said, as Americans look for secure and convenient ways to receive online purchases — and return unwanted merchandise.
“Consumers, especially those who live in apartments, want secured deliveries,” said Kate Gutmann, chief sales officer for UPS. “This is part of our broader strategy for e-commerce.”
Retailers and delivery services are racing to find new ways to offer fast — and secure — ways for customers to pick up their packages. Amazon offers free in-car delivery for Prime members, while Walmart’s Jet.com is testing smart-lock technology that allows workers to drop off packages in residents’ homes even when they aren’t there. (Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)
UPS offers package pickups and drop-offs at about 9,000 neighborhood shops, banks and office buildings, as well as 5,000 of its franchised company stores. Its newest efforts would more than double its national reach.
For retailers, such partnerships have become an important way to get people into their stores. Consumers are doing more of their shopping online, leaving many retailers scrambling to find new uses for their physical stores.
Some, such as Nordstrom and Target, are experimenting with smaller-format stores in city centers, while Walmart, Macy’s and others are encouraging customers to buy online, and pick up in stores.
UPS picked the three national chains, Gutmann said, because they cater to Americans in urban and rural areas, and offer extended evening and weekend hours. Representatives for CVS, Michael’s and Advanced Auto Parts did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Our big goal is to be near the U.S. population,” Gutmann said. “And retailers see this as a win-win: It’s a way to generate revenue and increase walk-through traffic.”
Kohl’s tested its Amazon returns service in 100 locations before expanding it to all 1,150 stores two weeks ago.
“Our top strategic priority is driving traffic, and this transformational program does just that,” Michelle Gass, the chief executive of Kohl’s, said at the time. “It drives customers into our stores.”