Retailers taking sides in Amazon, Walmart battle
Analysts say some brands might not be able to survive alone
Store chains feeling the upheaval in retail are making strategic alliances — and that can mean picking sides.
Kohl’s shoppers can find Amazon devices at some stores, and return items they bought from the online retailer. Nike has made some of its sneakers avail- able through Amazon. The owner of Sears is selling Kenmorebranded appliances on Amazon in some markets. And Best Buy is teaming up with Amazon for voice shopping.
Meanwhile, Walmart, which has the most store locations, is assembling a coalition of its own: buying smaller online brands and becoming the highest-profile partner to Google in voice shopping. And the discount chain that touts low prices announced a web partnership Monday with high-end department store Lord & Taylor.
“When you are in an historic uncharted chaotic situation, you often see these strange bedfellows,” said Joel Bines, co-head of AlixPartners’ retail practice and a managing director at the firm.
Since the beginning of the year, several retailers have filed for bankruptcy protection, including well-known names like Toys R Us. And retailers have announced thousands of store closings, with more expected. Analysts say some brands realize they might not succeed alone.
“You have to be challenging accepted norms. So you might find partners that you normally wouldn’t have considered,” said Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail. “This has exploded because of the urgency to change. You look at retailers who are closing or struggling.”
So as Amazon moves even further into fashion, home electronics and grocery stores, and cements shopper loyalty with its $99-a-year Prime membership, stores are developing partnerships with the online retailer to increase customer traffic or expand their offerings online.
At the participating Kohl’s stores, shoppers will find 1,000square-foot Amazon areas that sell Echos, Fire tablets and other gadgets. People can also arrange to have an Amazon employee visit their home and install a device or recommend smart home products to buy. And some stores pack and ship eligible Amazon return items for free. Kohl’s hopes the arrangement brings in shoppers who might pick up clothes or home items.
Analysts say other department stores, facing the same