Kohl’s enlists Amazon as ally in bid to drive store traffic; Home Depot signs deal with Google

Kohl’s aims to turn an e-commerce threat into an ally by offering Amazon.com products in some of its stores. Home Depot, meanwhile, will sell goods online via voice commands through Google Home and the Google Express website and mobile app.

In a sign of the times, Kohl’s and Home Depot are the latest traditional retailers to embrace online giants.

Kohl’s aims to turn an e-commerce threat into an ally by offering Amazon.com products in some of its stores. Home Depot, meanwhile, will sell goods online via voice commands through Google Home and the Google Express website and mobile app. Wal-Mart Stores announced a similar pact with Google last month.

In the Kohl’s deal, the department-store chain will open 1,000-square-foot Amazon areas in 10 stores in Chicago and Los Angeles, offering gadgets like the Echo voice-activated devices and the Fire tablet. The new store-in-store concept, dubbed the Amazon Smart Home Experience, will begin appearing next month.

The partnership lets Kohl’s ride Amazon’s coattails and provides another way to drive traffic to its brick-and-mortar locations. The broader department-store industry has struggled to maintain sales, and the specter of customers defecting to Amazon is seen as a major threat. Same-store sales — a closely watched measure — dropped 0.4 percent at Kohl’s last quarter.

News of the tie-up helped send Kohl’s shares up 4.9 percent to $42.37 Wednesday. The stock had been down 18 percent this year, battered by retail gloom.

The Kohl’s announcement, while financially immaterial, may end up foreshadowinga larger relationship in the future, Mark Altschwager said in a research note.In fact, the department-store chain could become an acquisition target for the e-commerce giant, he said.

Altschwager cited Kohl’s “off-mall” status: Its stores are often in proximity to supermarkets and have excess space that could be repurposed to serve Amazon’s distribution network.

Home Depot faces less pressure from the online realm. It’s been one of the best-performing retailers for several years — fueled by rising home values that have encouraged customers to spend more on renovations. But the deal with Alphabet’s Google, which takes effect later this year, may give it a way to pick up some additional sales.

The chain’s shares rose 2.4 percent to $156.56 on Wednesday, adding to a 14 percent gain for the year.

The dueling announcements are part of the…

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