Amazon is expanding a program that turns physical retail stores into package pickup centers, a move that further grows the company’s logistics network and creates another option for customers to retrieve orders.
Amazon said it is adding “thousands” of locations for its Counter package pickup service at GNC, Health Mart and Stage Stores. Amazon kicked off the program in the U.S. in June, with a partnership with Rite-Aid.
“The response we’ve heard from our customers and partners after the launch of Counter earlier this year has been tremendous,” Patrick Supanc, worldwide director of Amazon Hub, said in a statement. “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.”
It’s not clear how these partnerships are structured financially. In any case, it’s a fascinating deal — physical retailers hosting package pickup hubs for Amazon, the e-commerce giant that has taken business away from brick-and-mortar operations over the past several years. The retailers get the benefit of increased foot traffic in their stores from people picking up packages.
Amazon said it has been testing Counter with GNC, Health Mart and Stage Stores for the last few months. Amazon originally launched the service in the U.K. with NEXT and in Italy with Giunti Al Punto Librerie, Fermopoint, and SisalPay stores to positive reception.
Amazon also has retail partnerships for returns. In a major expansion of an unlikely alliance, Kohl’s earlier this year began accepting returns for items purchased on Amazon at all of its stores, more than 1,150 in total.
Counter is part of the Amazon Hub family, a series of additional options for package delivery beyond the front door. Amazon Hub also includes the thousands of lockers the company has scattered across 900 U.S. cities — inside Whole Foods locations, outside 7-Eleven stores and in banks — in addition to apartment lockers that Amazon developed last year. The company has also rolled out initiatives such as in-car and garage package delivery.
The centralized pickup points help Amazon accomplish its goal of reducing its core Prime free shipping benefit from a two-day turnaround to a one-day offering. It speeds up delivery times and offers an alternative to receiving packages at home or work, particularly for those concerned about package theft.
Hub helps Amazon level the playing field with competing retailers that take advantage of their network of stores as mini distribution centers. Walmart built out its own network of package pickup locations inside stores.