(Bloomberg)—For Kohl’s Corp., a partnership with Amazon.com Inc. seems to be paying off.
Since the launch of an October pilot program to accept Amazon returns in some stores, traffic at participating Chicago Kohl’s stores has been about 8.5% higher than others, according to geolocation data analyzed by Gordon Haskett Research Advisors.
“For Kohl’s it seems like a no-brainer,” Chuck Grom, an analyst at the research group, said in an interview.
About 56% of those who returned Amazon goods to a Kohl’s location were new Kohl’s shoppers—or they hadn’t visited Kohl’s at least since July 1, according to the study. That’s higher than in other locations, where less than 43% of those visiting were considered new to the chain.
Shoppers also appeared to spend more time in stores that offered returns, according to the data, which is obtained by tracking customer traffic via cell-phone data.
The case study looked at 13 Kohl’s stores in Chicago from July 1 through April 14. Five of the locations were part of the pilot.
Another foot traffic study by UberMedia,which tracks the behavior of shoppers with mobile devices, found similar results. The company reported that Kohl’s stores offering returns increased their store traffic by 48% during the late fall compared to before October, compared to 36% for Kohl’s stores not accepting Amazon returns.
Kohl’s idea to partner with Amazon—which many in retail consider the enemy—was a bid to think outside the box and attract people to its stores. Kohl’s also sells Amazon gadgets such as the Echo in a special section inside 10 stores in Los Angeles and Chicago.
Kohl’s CEO Kevin Mansell, who will hand the reins over to Michelle Gass this month, said in a March earnings call that the retailer has had “initial discussions” with Amazon about how and where they would expand the pilot. He declined to give further details. The retailer is scheduled to report its first-quarter results May 22.
“At the end of the day, if Kohl’s is just getting people to come in and drop stuff off, that’s not what this is about—it’s about getting people to convert,” Grom said.
Kohl’s is No. 18 in the just-released Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000. Amazon is No. 1.