Amazon sees strong demand for pepper spray and Black Lives Matter merchandise as protests rage

Key Points
  • Sales of pepper spray, Black Lives Matter merchandise and racial justice literature are spiking on Amazon, according to the site's Best Seller rankings. 
  • The company calculates best sellers based on sales volume and updates the list by the hour. 
  • It comes as protests continue to erupt around the country, following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis. 

In this article

Demonstrators hold signs during a protest at the Country Club Plaza on May 31, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Jamie Squire | Getty Images

Amazon shoppers are stocking up on pepper spray and Black Lives Matter merchandise as protests continue to erupt nationwide, according to sales rankings on its web site.

The e-commerce site lists self-defense items, educational books on racial justice and Black Lives Matter t-shirts as top-selling items across several categories of its Best Sellers page.

The rankings show that the protests against police brutality are at the forefront of some consumers' minds, as many of them grapple with the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Cities across America continued to demonstrate on Monday following a weekend of widespread protests over Floyd's death at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis. On Friday, Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was filmed kneeling on Floyd's neck before he died, was taken into custody and charged with murder and manslaughter.

The Sports and Outdoors category showed pepper spray as the top-selling item, while a rechargeable taser was listed at No.44, illustrating that consumers are buying self-defense items amid protests that have turned violent in some areas of the country. 

Outrage over the killing of Floyd appeared in the novelty clothing section of Amazon's Best Sellers page, where two "I can't breathe" t-shirts were among the top 10 best-selling items. One Black Lives Matter shirt ranks No. 60 in the best-selling clothing on Amazon, which is a significant rise from last Friday, when it didn't appear among the top 1,000 best sellers in that category, said Juozas Kaziukenas, who runs the e-commerce research firm Marketplace Pulse.

In the Books category, "White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism" is listed as the top-selling item, while "How to Be an Antiracist" is ranked third and "We're Different, We're the Same" is ranked seventh.

Amazon's Best Seller page calculates top sellers based on sales volume, according to the company's website. Amazon updates rankings every hour "to reflect recent and historical sales."

It's unclear if other factors are considered when determining Best Seller rankings, such as search volume. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment. 

Kaziukenas said Amazon tracks Best Sellers based on search volume but the data is shared with vendors and isn't viewable by the public.

The sales of Black Lives Matter shirts and other activism-inspired merchandise could be used as a vehicle for donating to those causes, Kaziukenas said.

"It's an opportunity for Amazon to donate those proceeds," he said. "Amazon takes a cut of each sale. All of that should be donated if Amazon cared."

Scenes from protests, riots across the U.S. after killing of George Floyd
Scenes from protests, riots across the U.S. after killing of George Floyd