Amazon partners to expand its physical pickup services

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 254 views 

Amazon is investing more in the pickup game of retail by partnering with GNC, Health Mart and Stage Stores to allow Amazon customers to pick up online orders at the brick-and-mortar locations with same-day, one-day, two-day or standard shipping options.

The new extension of Amazon Hub is dubbed “Counter” which has been piloted over several months in select markets. With the rollout of the service, Amazon said its customers will have access to thousands more Hub Counter locations with the new partners. Amazon will staff the pickup counters in the stores and customers will see no added cost.

“The response we’ve heard from our customers and partners after the launch of Counter earlier this year has been tremendous,” said Patrick Supanc, worldwide director of Amazon Hub. “This new network of pickup points gives customers a pickup experience that is fast, flexible and convenient, and partners are thrilled with the strong engagement and additional foot traffic Counter is driving for their stores.”

Amazon said Counter is part of the Amazon Hub network of secure, convenient pickup locations, which also included thousands of lockers deployed across the nation. In Northwest Arkansas, Amazon has lockers inside the Whole Foods store in Fayetteville.

The technology and retail titan said it designed and built the Counter system from the ground up, resulting in a quick and simple pickup experience for customers. For its retail partners, Counter easily turns a store of any size into a pickup location available to millions of Amazon customers. As Amazon’s logistics network continues to grow, the company is enabling delivery at even faster speeds, and in the most convenient locations, the release states.

Global health and wellness brand GNC is focused on quality performance and nutritional supplements. Health Mart is a network of independently owned and operated pharmacies in small cities and towns across the country. Stage Stores offers low prices on name brands through its Gordmans off-price stores, Bealls, Goody’s, Palais Royal, Peebles and Stage department stores.

After shopping on Amazon.com, customers proceed to checkout and select one of the Counter pickup points available in their zip code as their delivery location. As soon as their package arrives at the store, customers receive an e-mail notification with a unique barcode and a reminder of the address and the business hours of their selected store. At the store, customers provide the barcode to store staff, who scan it, retrieve the package, and hand it to the customer. Customers have 14 days to collect their package.

The package pickup process seems to work like Walmart’s in-store pickup service for general merchandise. Walmart has said its in-store pickup and returns for general merchandise is widely applauded by its customers who use the services. While Walmart does not have inventory levels of Amazon, it does offer 75 million items with most delivered in two days, free with a minimum order of $35. Walmart said 75% of the country has access to next-day delivery of 100,000 items, which can also be picked up in-store for free.

Carol Spieckerman, CEO of Spieckerman Retail, has previously said retailers from Amazon to Walmart will have to buy, build and bridge their way to success. She said sometimes it makes more sense to buy, such as Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, or Walmart’s blockbuster deal to acquire Flipkart. Retailers also will need to build out capabilities such as Walmart pickup grocery or Amazon Go stores.

Keith Anderson, chief strategist at Profitero, said one downside to the Counter program seems to be that shoppers can’t return items to these same locations, which can be done with lockers. He also said it’s logical that discounters like Stage and Stein Mart are attractive partners for Amazon, but the discounters overall are not hurting as bad for traffic as Rite Aid and GNC. Anderson also said there looks to be some sort of healthcare theme at play given the partnerships with GNC, Rite Aid and Health Mart.

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