In Amazon’s latest moves to bolster its logistics and fulfillment network, the company has partnered with Staples to accept customer returns and is looking for 2,500 local business to join its new Hub Delivery network.
Staples Joins Amazon’s Network of Returns Partners
By July 31, 2023, all Staples U.S. retail locations will accept label-free, box-free Amazon returns for no fee. The partnership is an expansion of a pilot program launched in December 2022.
Staples joins a growing network of retailers that have agreed to serve as hubs for Amazon customers. This movement began in 2017 when Amazon announced a then-unprecedented partnership with Kohl’s to pilot a returns drop-off program. That program now includes all Kohl’s stores across the country, and since that time Amazon has expanded return drop-offs to most of its own retail stores — including Whole Foods, Amazon Go, Amazon Fresh and Amazon Style locations — as well thousands of UPS Stores. The Staples program is already live at more than half of Staples’ 1,000+ U.S. retail stores and will expand to the full chain by the end of July 2023.
“We’re thrilled to offer nearly 1,000 additional drop-off locations in the U.S. for Amazon customer returns in collaboration with Staples,” said Gopal Pillai, VP of Worldwide Returns and Recommerce at Amazon in a statement. “Our goal is to make buying online as easy as possible, and we know that some items don’t always work out as planned, which is why we work hard to continue to raise the bar in offering a hassle-free returns experience to our customers.”
The move is particularly notable for Staples, which has a history of competing with Amazon. Back in 2013, the office supply retailer removed all the Amazon lockers from its stores and offered a price-match guarantee to Amazon customers in a bid to stave off competition from the ecommerce behemoth.
But in the decade since, Amazon lockers have made their return to Staples and the retailer is now doubling down on the partnership, reflecting a more nuanced approach to today’s omnichannel and omni-brand consumer and retail landscape. Not to mention it can provide a nice halo effect — after Kohl’s began accepting Amazon returns, the retailer saw a 9% increase in new customers and an 8% bump in revenue, according to Earnest Research.
“Staples is excited to provide Amazon customers with an easy and convenient physical location to drop off returns,” said Craig Grayson, SVP of Services at Staples U.S. Retail in a statement. “While many Americans know Staples for back-to-school shopping, our suite of in-store services continues to expand. We look forward to offering a fast and convenient return experience while showcasing our evolution to Amazon customers.”
Amazon Looks to SMBs for Help with Local Deliveries
Amazon also has quietly debuted a new program called Hub Delivery that will enlist small businesses across the country to deliver Amazon orders. At the outset, Amazon is looking for 2,500 local businesses to “jumpstart” the program, following a pilot with a few hundred partners, according to a new company webpage on the service.
Amazon will begin recruiting new partners for the program on July 3 across 23 states, Axios reports, including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Dakota and Washington, with at least 20 cities being targeted, including Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Hub Delivery partners will receive packages from Amazon each morning and be asked to deliver an average of 20 to 50 packages daily, although those packages can be delivered at any time throughout the day. Partners will use their own vehicles, staff and devices, paired with Amazon technology, and must be able to receive and deliver packages seven days a week, even if their business is not open every day, according to the Hub Delivery webpage. The program does not require a long-term contract and comes with no startup costs to the business.
Partners will be paid per package delivered, and while Amazon doesn’t share the specific rate for each package, the Hub Delivery page touts the potential for businesses to earn “up to $27,000” in additional income per year.
Beryl Tomay, VP of Amazon Last Mile Delivery and Technology, told Axios in an email interview that the new program will help “create opportunities for delivery partners interested in growing a business…and supplementing their income.”