Kohl's & Amazon: A Deal With the Devil?

Kohl’s Corp. (NYSE: KSS) announced Tuesday morning that it is partnering with a company some have dubbed as the Death Star for retailers: Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN). In this partnership, Kohl’s will be accepting returns for items purchased on Amazon at all of its stores beginning in July.

Originally, Kohl’s and Amazon first worked together in 2017 to pilot the returns program, which is currently operating in 100 stores in the Los Angeles, Chicago and Milwaukee markets. Now the duo will roll out this program to all of Kohl’s more than 1,150 locations across 48 states.

Taking a step back, this might seem like making a deal with the devil, as Amazon has slaughtered retailers in recent years. Only with the development of omnichannel platforms have some of these retailers been able to fight back and hold on to their market share. Kohl’s took a different tact.

It seems that if Kohl’s can sustain a relationship with Amazon’s e-commerce empire, it can live to fight another day. Even last month, Kohl’s announced that it will expand its product relationship with Amazon by carrying Amazon products in more than 200 stores.

While this recent move is a big boon for the stock, Kohl’s hasn’t got its act together recently, with its stock up less than 2% in 2019. Comparatively, Walmart, Target, TJX, Dillards and J.C. Penney are each up at least 10%, with J.C. Penney leading the group with a 25% year-to-date gain. If Kohl’s is relying on Amazon to keep pace with this group, does it seem like it’s selling its soul to Amazon?

Michelle Gass, Kohl’s CEO, commented:

We are thrilled to bring Amazon Returns at Kohl’s to all of our stores across the country. Amazon and Kohl’s have a shared passion in providing outstanding customer service, and this unique partnership combines Kohl’s strong nationwide store footprint and omnichannel capabilities with Amazon’s reach and customer loyalty. This new service is another example of how Kohl’s is delivering innovation to drive traffic to our stores and bring more relevance to our customers.

Shares of Kohl’s were last seen up about 10% at $74.18, in a 52-week range of $57.89 to $83.28. The stock has a consensus analyst target of $76.31.

Amazon was up about 2% at $1,925.65 a share. The 52-week range is $1,307.00 to $2,050.50, and the consensus price target is $2,080.44.