The arrangement aims to introduce Amazon customers to Stein Mart, as well as drive foot traffic to its stores.

Stein Mart Inc., No. 536 in the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 1000, plans to install Amazon Hub Lockers in nearly 200 of its 283 stores by early June. The lockers are secure, self-service kiosks where consumers can pick up or return their Amazon packages. Amazon is No. 1 in the Top 1000.

Once the lockers are in place, an Amazon shopper will be able to select a Stein Mart locker as her shipping address. Once her package is ready for pickup, she will receive an email along with a barcode that she can use to pick up her package during store hours.

Amazon drove the arrangement, says a Stein Mart spokeswoman, noting the retail giant said it was looking to work with department and specialty stores in shopping centers. And Amazon chose where it wanted to locate the lockers based on the concentration of its customers, deliveries and the availability of other lockers in those markets.

The arrangement aims to introduce Amazon customers to Stein Mart and to drive foot traffic to its stores, says Stein Mart CEO Hunt Hawkins. And it gives Amazon “another way to go where our customers are and deliver where and when they need us,” says Patrick Supanc, Amazon worldwide director of lockers and pickup. In addition to the Stein Mart stores, Amazon has lockers located in offices, convenience stores, grocery stores, apartment buildings and malls in more than 900 cities and towns across the United States, an Amazon spokeswoman says. That includes certain Whole Foods Markets, 7-Eleven and Sprint stores.

The deal makes sense for both retailers because there is “minimal effort” involved for Stein Mart to try to drive traffic to its stores given that Amazon likely pays for, installs and maintains the lockers, says Sucharita Kodali, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “Stein Mart is not a hot retailer and many of its locations aren’t great. I’m not sure how much use its lockers will get. But if the lockers encourage more people to buy on Amazon, that’s worth it to Amazon. And if there’s a way to drive traffic to a store, what retailer won’t take that?”

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News of the deal came less than a month after Kohl’s Corp., No. 24 in the Top 1000, said it would begin accepting returns for Amazon customers at all of its stores starting in July. The department store chain began offering the free service as a pilot program in 2017 that grew to 100 stores in the Los Angeles, Chicago and Milwaukee markets.

Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass on Tuesday called the Amazon returns expansion the retailer’s “single-biggest initiative of the year,” noting that the deal is “all about driving traffic.”

“It drives customers into our stores, and we are expecting millions to benefit from this service,” she said during a conference call with analysts. Kohl’s expects the relationship will drive “an incremental lift in sales,” Gass said.

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