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Kohl’s Testing Amazon-Staffed Smart-Home Sections

Kohl’s, the discount junior department store chain, will begin testing interactive smart-home display areas next month featuring Amazon devices, accessories, services and personnel.

The 1,000-square-foot sections will feature the e-tailer’s proprietary Echo, Echo Dot, Fire TV and Fire tablet assortment, which will be available for direct purchase from Amazon. The display spaces will also be staffed by Amazon associates who can demo the devices and explain Alexa’s role in creating a connected home.

The sales associates can also schedule home appointments to assess consumers’ IoT needs, and direct shoppers to Amazon Home Services, a local referral program.

See:Amazon Offering Free In-Home IoT Consults

Kohl’s will begin the pilot program in October at 10 stores in Los Angeles and Chicago, and described the Amazon-equipped smart-home zones as “a first-of-its-kind experience.”

“We believe in the power of our store portfolio and know that our future as a best-in-class omnichannel retailer will be driven by how inventive, compelling and unique we can make our store experience,” said Michelle Gass, Kohl’s chief merchandising and customer officer.

Added Dave Zimmer, Amazon devices sales and marketing VP: “We are thrilled to offer a unique new way for customers to try out our lineup of Alexa-enabled Amazon devices, learn more about our smart-home services from Amazon experts, and then buy those items directly from Amazon — all within Kohl’s stores.”

The partnership represents Amazon’s third retail extension in recent weeks, following the addition of Sears’ Kenmore appliance line and its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods last month.

The Kohl’s deal also reconfirms Amazon’s commitment to building a brick-and-mortar presence, despite having dismissed physical storefronts as a retail anachronism in the years following its launch.

Kohl’s historically dabbled in CE with a small selection of opportunistically sourced promotional items, but more recently installed fixed tech sections comprised of attractive, interactive branded displays by leading audio and accessories brands. The 1,100-store chain placed 68th on TWICE’s Top100 CE Retailers Report, with $46 million in electronics sales last year.