Sears Becomes First Major Retailer To Allow Returns & Exchanges From Customers Who Wait In Their Cars

Online shopping’s impact is taking its toll on brick-and-mortar retailers, who are now struggling to compete by offering their own spin on instant gratification and convenience. One such retailer is Sears, which last year introduced a “Shop’In” feature within its own mobile application in order to connect in-store and online shopping. Today, mobile users are offered e-coupons, price comparisons, and personalized deals, and now, online shoppers can pick up merchandise, as well as return or exchange items without having to get out of their cars.

This is a notable advance for the struggling retailer, whose stock is currently down upon word that it has received a $400 million loan from its own chairman and CEO, and who said on its last earnings call the drop from store closures would require the company to seek new forms of collateral. The store’s second quarter was awful – it lost $573 million.

But on the mobile front, Sears is making an effort at least. While many big-box retailers today offer in-store pickup/ship-to-store as an option for their online customers, few are experimenting with curbside options. Walmart is one exception, having begun to test market online grocery shopping with a local store pickup option in the Denver market, allowing customers to wait curbside for a store associate to bring out their bags.

With Sears’ app, however, the company is going a bit further. Instead of only allowing for pick-ups as before, customers are also now able to exchange or return merchandise from their vehicles, too.

In order to start this process, the customer first visits the website and clicks on the customer service link, then chooses “Returns & Exchanges.” From there, they follow prompts to identify the item they want to return, or, if an exchange, they select the new item they’re choosing instead. When the item is ready, Sears emails the customer with a confirmation.

When arriving at the store, the customer parks in one of the In-Vehicle Pickup spots, and then uses the Shop’In feature in the Shop Your Way mobile app in order to alert the store that they’ve arrived. A timer starts, and within 5 minutes (the company promises), a store associate will arrive to complete the process of the pick-up, return or exchange.

Unlike with Walmart’s grocery pick-up option in Denver, Sears’ in-vehicle option is not a market test, we’re told. The company tells us that pick-ups, returns and exchanges are now available at all Sears full-line stores nationwide. This makes it an industry-first online shopping advance, in fact, and one Sears likely hopes can help boost its bottom line.

It’s clear why Sears is going this route, too. Though the company declined to share sales data related to these efforts, it did note that its Shop Your Way members accounted for a whopping 73% of sales last quarter.