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Amazon adds thousands more US locations to its Counter in-store pickup service

GNC, Health Mart and Stage Stores get added into the program, joining Rite-Aid.

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Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

Amazon on Wednesday said it vastly expanded its in-store pickup service called Counter.

The online retailer said it partnered with GNC, Health Mart and Stage Stores to add thousands more locations to the program. Amazon introduced Counter in May in the UK and Italy, then brought it to the US in June. Counter started in more than a hundred Rite-Aid stores and will roll out to 1,500 Rite-Aid locations by year's end.

Counter is another alternative for Amazon customers to get their packages. Instead of getting a delivery to your home, Counter gives you the option of picking up your items from a local retailer.

Amazon's growth plans for Counter come about a month after CNET reported that the company was planning to substantially expand Amazon Lockers, a sister program under the Amazon Hub brand.

The online retailing giant is building up Counter as part of its work to grow its on-the-ground shipping infrastructure and help it speed up deliveries. With more Counter locations, Amazon delivery workers will be able to drop off more packages at once, instead of at individual addresses, helping them complete more deliveries.

Customers could benefit, too, as Counter and Amazon Lockers offer a way to avoid porch thefts and rain-soaked packages. For brick-and-mortar stores, joining Counter could bring new customers, helping them make up for lost sales from online retailers like Amazon.

Amazon has been working for years to grow its presence in more stores, since it doesn't have many of its own. It partners with the department store Kohl's for returns at all its 1,100 US stores. And in May it added its lockers to 200 Stein Mart discount department stores. 

To use Counter, you can select a Counter pickup location at checkout. You'll then get an email with a barcode included when your package arrives. Store staff will scan your barcode and get your package. You'll have up to 14 days to pick up your box.

Counter is offered at no additional cost and works with same-day, one-day, two-day and standard shipping.