Would outfits like HSBC or GE Capital rather get into straight marketing of consumer credit cards Sure they would. But that game is cooling off. So they're looking for ancillary businesses.
Running a credit-card portfolio is a banking business. Retailers make lousy bankers ... so receivables tend to be inert in their hands.
The chestnut that's out there in the industry that they did this to finance their lending business - that doesn't wash. For me, there are more unanswered questions than there are answered questions.