Tech

Amazon allows sellers to start shipping nonessential items again

Key Points
  • Amazon has started to allow third-party sellers to ship some nonessential items to its warehouses.
  • An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC it will start to allow some shipments later this week. 
  • The company told sellers in March that it would prioritize shipments of essential goods due to the coronavirus outbreak.
FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2010 file photo, Humberto Manzano, Jr., delivers an arriving pallet of goods at an Amazon.com fulfillment center in Phoenix. Products are flying off the shelves at Amazon warehouses across the county as Californians prepare to start paying sales taxes on online purchases. The change, which takes effect Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, will pave the way for the e-commerce giant to open warehouses in California and offer same-day shipping to customers. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
Ross D. Franklin

Amazon will soon allow third-party merchants to ship nonessential items to its warehouses, the company confirmed to CNBC. 

Starting later this week, the company will begin to accept more products in its warehouses, an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. Amazon told sellers in March that it would "temporarily prioritize" household staples, medical supplies and other essential product categories in response to a surge in demand from the coronavirus outbreak. 

News of the update was first reported by The Wall Street Journal

The spokesperson said products will be limited by quantity to allow Amazon to continue prioritizing essential products and protecting employees, "while also ensuring most selling partners can ship goods into our facilities."

"We appreciate our selling partners' patience as we prioritize products for customers and adhere to extensive health and safety measures in our fulfillment centers to protect our employees," the spokesperson said. "We will share more details with our selling partners later this week."

The update should be a welcome change for Amazon's millions of third-party sellers. After Amazon said it would prioritize essential goods, many sellers told CNBC they were concerned that the decision would exacerbate the pandemic's already harsh impact on their businesses. Sellers who offer items outside of toilet paper and disinfectant wipes said they were forced to furlough or lay off employees, while others cut back on advertising. 

Third-party merchants were still able to sell nonessential items on Amazon, but they weren't able to ship those items using Fulfillment by Amazon, or FBA. Third-party merchants could still use FBA for essential items. The service lets sellers ship their products to an Amazon warehouse, where the company stores the inventory and ships orders out to customers, in exchange for Amazon taking a commission from each sale. 

Users in Facebook groups for Amazon sellers said they noticed some of their products, categorized as nonessential items, were being "unblocked" by Amazon. One seller said their business was told by Amazon that they could restock all of their nonessential items. 

Steve Yates, CEO of Prime Guidance, a company that consults third-party sellers on Amazon, said Amazon appears to be slowing shipments on some products, but it has "opened up a lot more availability in the last few days." 

Another seller consultant, James Thomson, said he has also noticed Amazon is relaxing restrictions on some nonessential items. Thomson added that delivery times appear to be improving on nonessential items in certain geographic regions. 

"FBA non-essentials in one city can arrive a lot faster than other cities," said Thomson, who is also the former head of Amazon Services, in an email. "Looking today [versus] Friday, there are already more improvements on consistent times across country as well as accelerated times (this week [versus] next month) on lots of non-essentials."

Not all sellers said they were able to ship nonessential items to Amazon warehouses just yet. Jason Boyce, a former Amazon seller who is now a consultant to third-party merchants, told CNBC that his clients haven't noticed a change but that they're "trying daily."

Since the pandemic first erupted, Amazon has faced increased demand from customers on multiple fronts. The company has added more than 100,000 employees to address the increased demand and announced Monday that it will hire an additional 75,000 workers across the country. 

— CNBC's Deirdre Bosa contributed to this story.

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