Welcome to Full-Time FBA

arrow-blue-outline-rightWelcome! On this blog, we talk about our journey towards making FBA our full-time job. We give out free tips and tricks to help you make the most of your time, money, and resources. If you want to subscribe, just fill out the form over on the right side of the screen.

Seller Central Cover Mini x3To show you our appreciation, we’d like to give you a free download link to our newest book, Seller Central Tips: Reimbursements, Refunds, and How To Correct Other Possible Amazon Glitches. When you confirm your subscription, the download link will magically show up in your inbox.

By the way, we hate spam as much as you do, so we only send you stuff that will help you make FBA your full-time job! Let us know if you have any questions.

Stephen & Rebecca Smotherman

How to Provide Box Level Details on Amazon FBA Shipments

box-content-info-blogIf you’ve been reading your seller emails from Amazon, you know that starting November 1, 2016, FBA sellers will be required to provide box level details of the contents of their shipments to FBA warehouses. Failing to provide those details will incur a fee for your shipments of 15 cents per item. Additionally, Amazon has stated that shipments without box contents provided might experience a slower check-in time than shipments providing the box level details.

The thought of adding an extra step to the FBA shipment process isn’t super appealing to most Amazon sellers – the fewer the steps the better, right? But I (Stephen) have added box level details to my shipments for the past month now, and I can tell you it’s not as bad as you might have heard.

sC_b001h9nxvg-boxpileReally, it’s in your best interest to start NOW learning how to add the details and practicing with shipments of various sizes. In the long run, spending 5-10 extra minutes per shipment to add the box level details will definitely save you money and potentially save you time: definitely the money from the fees for not providing the details and potentially the time of your shipment being delayed during check-in because you didn’t provide the details.

There are five ways you can handle adding the box level details to your shipment:

  1. Only ship one box at a time – no need to provide extra details.
  2. Ship multiple boxes, but only one SKU per box – no need to provide extra details.
  3. Ship 25 SKUs or less in multiple boxes, and you can provide details through the web-based form on Seller Central.
  4. Ship more than 25 SKUs in multiple boxes, and you can provide details through an Excel spreadsheet uploaded to Seller Central.
  5. Use a third-party listing software to provide details.

I’m not exaggerating when I say providing box contents will add only 5-10 minutes to packing your shipment. It really isn’t a long, time-consuming process. So far, I’ve been listing my shipments in Inventory Lab and then finishing out the shipment process (including providing box level details) in Seller Central. In the very near future I will try out Inventory Lab’s new box level detail process and report back on my thoughts on it.

For a tutorial of how to use the #3 and #4 methods above, I’ve made the following screen capture video walking you through the process.

As you can see in the video, the steps for filling out the forms are rather straightforward. To assist in the process of knowing which items I’ve packed in which boxes, I always print out my form so that I can check off the items on paper as I’m packing; then I transfer my check marks to the online form or Excel sheet once the boxes are packed.

money-fees-add-up-fastIf you decide that providing the box content details is too annoying or time-consuming, you do have the option to skip this step in the process, but you will incur a fee of 15 cents per item in that shipment. This may seem like a small fee, but be careful because those charges can add up quickly. Let me show you how.

I recently had a 92-item shipment of more than 25 SKUs, so the fees to skip the box level details for that shipment would be $13.80. I timed myself as I provided the box contents for the shipment through Excel, and it only added 6 minutes to my processing time. If you do the math, $13.80 in fees versus 6 minutes of my time means that I would have been paying Amazon $138/hour to allow me to skip that step. It’s worth it to me to just spend the extra 6 minutes and keep that $13.80 in fees to spend on more inventory to sell on Amazon.

As with so many other changes that happen over time in selling on Amazon, there will be a day in the not-so-distant future where adding box content details is ingrained in our minds as just one more step in the process, not as a new time-sucking step. Ultimately, providing box level details should theoretically help us as sellers have an easier time reconciling issues with lost inventory from shipments during the check-in process, which makes the entire process worth it, in my mind.

To read for yourself the Amazon guidelines about providing box level details, click here.

Have you been using the web form or Excel sheet to provide box level details on your Amazon FBA shipments? Do you have any advice to add on this topic? Please let us hear from you in the comments!

Selling Shoes through Amazon FBA: Prepping and Processing (Plus Returns)

prep-process-returns-shoesKnowing which shoes to source isn’t the only new skill to acquire when it comes to adding the shoe category to your Amazon FBA inventory. Prepping your shoes can also present some new opportunities to learn, but the differences from prepping and listing in other categories are easy to learn if you read and follow the Amazon guidelines.

Before I (Rebecca) dive into more details on processing your shoe inventory, I want to make sure you’ve had an opportunity to read the previous two posts in our series on Selling Shoes through Amazon FBA:

Post #1: Why We Added Shoes to Our Sourcing Strategy
Post #2: Buying Decisions

Ok, back to prepping shoes…

Inspect Your Shoe Inventory

shoe-box-prep-1Whether you inspect your shoes in the retail store before you make the purchase or after you receive your online order, careful inspection of your shoe inventory is a must. We’ve just about seen it all when we open up shoe boxes to check them out for the first time, and you want to make sure that you are the one to discover any oddities about a pair of shoes, not your customer.

Here are a few things you want to check carefully on every pair of shoes that you send to Amazon FBA:

  • the correct style
  • the correct color
  • the correct size (including width)
  • one right and one left
  • the condition is new

We’ve received shoes in our online orders that were the wrong style, wrong color, wrong size, wrong width, two left shoes, only one shoe, one size printed on a tag and a different size printed on the shoe, shoes that have clearly been worn and returned to the store, and shoes in crushed shoe boxes. You also want to check for any markings in ink on the soles of the shoes or price tags stapled to the soles.

shoe-storeIf you’re sourcing in a retail store, the obvious solution to any of the above problems is to not buy the shoes in the first place. If you are doing online arbitrage and receive shoes with the above problems, you can return the shoes for a refund, or you can sell them on a different platform, like eBay, where you can give details in your product description about the shoe being slightly worn, having a different size listed on the box, etc.

Note: You CANNOT list a pair of shoes in new condition on Amazon and attempt to put any type of description of the shoes in your condition notes. Shoes sold as new on Amazon must EXACTLY match the description on the product page and be in absolutely new condition.

Prepping Shoes

As I said at the beginning of this post, one of the keys to successfully prepping your shoes for the Amazon FBA warehouse is to read the guidelines. Here’s the excerpt from the guidelines about prepping and packaging shoes:

“Footwear, regardless of material, must be packaged with no shoe material exposed, either in shoe boxes or bagged in a polybag with a suffocation warning. Shoe box lids must be secured with a non-adhesive band or removable tape.”

In general, we make sure our shoe inventory is sent to the FBA warehouse in the branded shoe box it came in, and we use stretch wrap to secure the lid. We made a video to show you exactly how we secure the lids with the stretch wrap:

Typically we don’t bag shoes in a polybag, except for flipflops, crocs, slippers, or any other type of shoe that you would buy at a brick-and-mortar store hanging on a rack rather than on a shelf of shoe boxes.

Handling Returns

return-refund-imageAlmost without fail, when an Amazon seller talks about how great the profits are with shoes, the response they get is this: “Yeah, but what about the return rates? Is it even worth it with all the returns?”

I’ll be the first to admit: the psychological hit you take as a seller is harder when you get a return on a $120 pair of running shoes than for the return of a $15 toy. But the financial hit doesn’t have to be that hard.

When a pair of shoes is returned to Amazon, many times the warehouse workers inspect them and see that they haven’t been worn and simply enter them back into your inventory.

open-shoesIf the warehouse worker does mark the shoes as “customer damaged” and the shoes move to your unfulfillable inventory, that doesn’t necessarily mean the shoes are damaged. In these instances, have the shoes returned to you for inspection, and you can decide what to do from there. Sometimes the shoes haven’t been worn and can be sent back to the FBA warehouse in new condition. If the shoes clearly have been worn, you can still sell them on eBay with detailed condition notes.

We have found that the majority of our returned shoes can still be sold on Amazon, with a rare few needing to be sold on eBay. When you start crunching the numbers, the return rate for shoes may appear higher than other categories, but if you’re still able to sell the shoes in the end, the impact on your business isn’t that high.


Our hope for this series on selling shoes is that we’re able to help you make informed decisions about whether the category is right for you and to help you find success in sourcing and in prepping shoes. As I’ve put these posts together, I’ve realized that this series is only scratching the surface of what there is to say about selling shoes on Amazon – look for more from us in the future on this topic! To be sure you don’t miss out on future blog posts, be sure to scroll up and subscribe.

In the meantime, keep sharing your shoe selling experiences with us in the comments section!

Selling Shoes through Amazon FBA: Buying Decisions

selling-shoes-part-2We’re excited today to continue our 3-post series on selling shoes through Amazon FBA. If you didn’t get a chance to read the first post in the series (Why We Added Shoes to Our Sourcing Strategy), you can check it out here at this link. Be on the lookout for the next post next week on how to prep and process shoes for Amazon FBA.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty details of sourcing shoes for FBA, shall we?

As I (Rebecca) mentioned in the introductory post of this series, I personally don’t source for shoes using retail arbitrage (RA). I tried it and came up dry. I use 100% online arbitrage (OA) for my shoe sourcing strategy. The gist of this post, however, will cover topics that apply no matter what type of strategy you use for sourcing. I won’t get into details of what types of stores to find shoes in, what brands to look for, what styles to look for, and so on. Instead, I’m going to talk about some fundamental issues related to sourcing shoes that you can apply to your own personal sourcing strategy, whether you prefer RA, OA, wholesale, or something else.

shoe-experimentOur Initial Two-Week Shoe Experiment

After we got approved to sell in the shoe category, we decided to spend a two-week period sourcing shoes through OA, track the resulting sales, calculate our return on investment (ROI) and profits, and then decide from there how we wanted to proceed with adding shoes to our overall FBA strategy.

Every day for two weeks, I diligently looked at the deals on my Your Sourced Inventory list, spent my sourcing budget, and waited for the shoes to arrive at our doorstep. The shoes came in, we processed them, and we sent them to FBA and waited for the sales.

clock-147257_1280And waited. And waited. And waited.

I didn’t source any more shoes online for about five or six weeks after that, as I waited to see how our experiment turned out. The sales trickled in soooooooo sloooooooowwwwwwwwwly from those two weeks of sourcing. I was very discouraged that shoes I thought were a low rank at the time I bought them turned out to not sell for weeks and weeks and weeks. I questioned whether I should stop thinking about buying shoes and just stick to toys, books, or another category I already knew well.

Rather than completely giving up, I decided to learn more, ask a ton of questions, reach out to people who have experience in the category, and try again. It was a slow process, but here we are a year later – and shoes are consistently our second highest category in dollar amount of sales.

For the rest of this post, I want to give you several points of consideration for making buying decisions in the shoe category that will hopefully accelerate your learning process.

What I Wish I Had Known About Sourcing Shoes Before I Started

  1. capital-moneyShoes take a LOT of capital to buy.

Unlike categories such as books or toys, with shoes it’s not possible to take a small amount of capital, buy items at a ridiculously low price and high ROI, and turn a fast profit that you can reinvest within a short amount of time. Shoes can give you a great ROI and a fantastic average selling price (ASP), but the buy cost for one pair of shoes typically ranges from $20 upward. It’s not uncommon to spend $50 or more on one pair of shoes.

  1. iguana-1441439_1280Shoes are long tail items.

Not only does it take a large initial investment (relative to other categories) to start buying shoes, it takes a lot of patience. Shoes typically do not sell at the same velocity as toys, books, groceries, and other faster moving categories. Shoes aren’t typically something that you can replenish, either. You generally buy a style of shoe, send it in to FBA, and move on to finding the next pair of shoes.

I sank a bunch of money into shoes in our original two-week experiment and became frustrated and disappointed that I didn’t get my return on that investment as soon as I had hoped. I eventually did sell all the shoes from that two weeks, but it took as long as six months for some of those shoes to sell – and in some cases as long as nine months. Once they did sell, the high ASP was nice to eventually see in our disbursement, but if we had needed that money back any sooner than nine months, we would have been in trouble.

The key with getting a steady stream of high ASP sales from shoes is to give yourself several months to ramp up. It will take several months of sending in a steady stream of shoes, and then you have to wait for those high-priced shoe sales to start trickling in. If you continually source shoes and send them in on a regular basis, after a while you will see the fruits of your labor in the form of higher disbursements and higher ASP. Stephen is always saying that patience brings profits, and that is definitely the case in the shoe category.

One item of note: Because shoes are a long tail item, it is more strategic not to go deep in any one variation, but go wide and buy multiple variations of the same style instead. It’s much easier to sell out quickly of one pair in each of size 6, 7, 8, and 9 than to sell out of four pairs of size 8.

  1. Sales rank for shoes is much different to gauge than in other categories.

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-5-30-37-pmEach shoe listing on Amazon can potentially have dozens of variations, depending on the number of colors and sizes available. When you look at the sales rank for a pair of shoes you want to source, you aren’t looking at the sales rank for that particular pair of shoes; you’re looking at the sales rank for all of those variations combined. If the Amazon product page says a pair of shoes is ranked #568 in the overall shoe category, you have no way to know which size and which color of those shoes are receiving the sales that give it that low rank.

To further complicate matters, CamelCamelCamel and Keepa do not show sales rank history for shoes. When I’m making sourcing decisions, I don’t even bother looking at Camel for shoes. Keepa, however, does provide crucial information about whether or not Amazon has ever been in stock on any variation of shoes, and it shows price history. I highly recommend becoming fluent in using Keepa for making shoe sourcing decisions (you can get started reading Keepa graphs with this blog post).

So how can we make smart sourcing decisions if we have no way to know the current sales rank or sales rank history for a variation of shoes?

Here are two ways I can limit my risk as far as shoe sales rank is concerned:

* I stick with buying shoes that have a low number of variations. I prefer to buy shoes with only a low number of color options, not 15 or 20 colors. I also prefer to source shoes that don’t have a narrow, regular, and wide variation for each size. Tons of colors and tons of size options means more variations, which means the overall sales rank becomes increasingly meaningless as far as each variation is concerned.

* I stick with buying neutral colors (black, white, gray, brown). The majority of people are going to buy neutral colored shoes, and I prefer to buy inventory that’s more of a sure bet. I don’t buy shoes in a crazy floral print or neon green, no matter how cute they are — unless the only options on a low ranking shoe are bright colors and no neutrals; then I’ll branch out.

  1. Every shoe seller likes to take a different approach.

shoeKeep in mind that I’m trying to give you some general principles for making shoe sourcing decisions. Every seller finds their own groove, and you have to figure out what approach you personally want to take.

Some sellers prefer to stick with common sizes and colors, while some sellers like to provide Amazon customers with the hard-to-find colors and sizes. Some sellers stay away from sourcing half sizes because they find they sell less than whole sizes, but other sellers swear by sourcing half sizes because they’re harder to find and therefore more lucrative.

Personally, I usually stick to sizes 9-12 for men, 6-10 for women (but if 5 or 11 in women’s is currently unavailable on Amazon, I will consider buying it). That’s a wider range than some sellers would recommend; many will only source women’s 7, 8, 9. Also, I tend to buy more half sizes for women, less for men.

  1. screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-7-11-11-pmLook at reviews to see popular color and size.

A work-around for making a shoe sourcing decision without sales rank history is to read the reviews. Within the Amazon reviews for any verified Amazon purchase, you can see what size and color the customer bought. It’s fairly safe to assume that colors with more reviews are receiving more sales. You can also read the reviews and look at the “fit as expected” percentage to see if shoes tend to run small, large, or as expected. You can assume that shoes with a high percentage of “runs small” or “runs large” are likely to have a higher rate of return, which is a risk you might not be willing to take with your sourcing budget.

  1. shoes-high-heelsLook at the average price of shoes across all variations, not just at the price of the variation you’re considering sourcing.

This might be the biggest lesson I wish I had known before I started sourcing shoes. It’s possible that one random person will be willing to pay 3x for a blue leopard print shoe in women’s size 11.5 – but it’s not likely. It’s less risky to source shoes you can price competitively with other variations of the same size or color, rather than keeping your fingers crossed that someone will pay way above the average price listed on Amazon for your particular variation.


Shoes aren’t for everyone selling on Amazon. The learning curve can be steeper than with other categories, shoes require a lot of capital, and the wait for sales can seem like an eternity. Even if you read every word I say above and every word in every Facebook group about shoes, it still takes trial-and-error to learn the category through your own experience. Everyone will have different results, and everyone will find different areas where they excel and prefer to source. What works for me might not work across the board.

shoesBut if you’re willing to commit the time and money…and some more time…and then a little more time to learning the category, the profits are worth it. We’ve spent the past year ramping up our shoe inventory and now have a continual stream of high-priced sales from shoes on a daily basis.

Have you found success selling shoes through Amazon FBA? Is there anything you would add to my above list of points to consider when sourcing shoes? We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Selling Shoes through Amazon FBA: Why We Added Shoes to Our Sourcing Strategy

selling-shoes-part-1Today we’re going to start a three-post series here on the blog, covering our experiences over the past year as we’ve ventured into selling shoes through Amazon FBA. This first post will start off with the reasons we decided to sell shoes, and then in the next two posts we’ll give a summary of the lessons we’ve learned about sourcing shoes through online arbitrage and prepping shoes to send to the FBA warehouse. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks!

If you’re not familiar with our story as a couple and as business partners, Stephen is the one in our marriage with the business experience, and I (Rebecca) am the one who came into this whole FBA thing with a bit of skepticism. Now that we’ve been working on the business together for a few years, we’ve found areas where I gravitate more than Stephen (check out our post about my experience getting into online arbitrage, for example). It’s been a work-in-progress to get to the point we’re at with our current roles in the business, and I’m sure it will continue to evolve – but for now we’ve found a system of sourcing that we love and is profitable for us.

red-shoesOne key component of our current sourcing strategy for Amazon FBA is selling shoes. We added shoes in the fall of 2015 (about a year ago, at the time of this writing), and after a slow start we are pleased with the difference this category has made in our business and are continually looking for ways to expand our shoe inventory.

Here are the main reasons we decided to add shoes to our FBA sourcing strategy:

  1. time-to-diversifyShoes gave us an opportunity to diversify our inventory.

Before fall of 2015, our main categories were toys, toys, toys, books, toys, home and kitchen, toys, and a smattering of sports, grocery, and health and beauty. We wanted to find a category where we could consistently source products and diversify our inventory away from being so toy heavy. Don’t get me wrong – we love selling toys and are always super excited when Q4 rolls around. But we wanted to branch out and try something new, and shoes were very appealing for us as a new category for diversification for reasons I’ll get into below.

  1. price-tag-267x300Shoes have a high average selling price.

A relatively high average selling price (ASP) can be a step towards both saving time and increasing profits. Don’t we all want to make more money and spend less time doing it?

Think about it this way: You can sell one widget for $100 or ten widgets for $10 apiece, and you make the same amount in sales, $100. What about the prep and handling time, though? Those ten widgets require ten times the prep work, ten times the labels, ten times the handling to put into a shipping box. The FBA pick-and-pack fees will apply ten times to the $100 of sales. The one $100 widget, however, requires 1/10th of the prep work and only one pick-and-pack fee.

Shoes are a great way to increase the ASP of your FBA inventory. In 2013 and 2014 we sold a lot of $10 or $15 toys. A lot. In 2016, we’ve sold a much lower number of inventory items, but our ASP has gone up considerably because of the number of shoes we’ve sold. In the past three months, our ASP in the shoe category has been $71, while our overall ASP across all categories is now up to $34.

  1. low-competitionShoes have fewer competitors for sales.

Shoes are a gated category for Amazon sellers, which significantly lowers the number of competitors on any given item. While many low ranking books or toys might typically have 100+ sellers, it’s relatively easy to find low ranking shoes on a regular basis with only a handful of sellers – or even one or none on certain variations.

When we got ungated in shoes, the process still required applying with a flat file and photos, so the number of competitors was even lower than it currently is. Now that automatic approvals are a regular occurrence, the number of sellers in the category has increased somewhat, but not enough for us to be unable to find listings with little or no competition. And even though some shoe sellers bemoan auto-ungating as the end of big profits in shoes, we’ve found that the recent round of brand and ASIN restrictions have further kept the competition at a minimum, and we believe it will continue to do so into the future. (You can watch our YouTube video for more on our optimistic view of the recent brand restrictions.)

  1. OA KeyboardShoes provide an opportunity for me to source solely (that pun is for you, Stephen!) via online arbitrage.

I know a lot of people make big profits on shoes doing retail arbitrage, but not me. I tried it and hated it. Hated it. I mean it, seriously, I did not find even one pair of shoes to resell doing RA. Instead, I signed up for a couple of deal lists (Your Sourced Inventory and Gated List) and OAXray, and I’ve stuck with those for the past year. Over the course of that year, I’ve been able to switch from doing part RA/part OA across several categories to doing only OA, mostly in shoes with a handful of other categories. Before I started buying shoes, I couldn’t find enough inventory to buy online in other categories to spend my entire weekly sourcing budget. I would have to also go out and do RA to find enough inventory that fit my sourcing parameters.

Shoes changed everything for me as far as focusing on OA alone. My mileage records for 2015 prove it: I stopped recording mileage for sourcing at exactly the same time I committed to sourcing shoes online. Switching to only OA for shoe sourcing has allowed me to stay home more, put fewer miles on my aging car, and focus on other professional pursuits. Buying shoes through OA truly has allowed our business to make more money and spend less time doing it.

shoes-that-are-healthy-700x700I do have to say, though, I wasn’t so sure at first that we would make shoes a permanent addition to our FBA inventory. After we got ungated in the shoe category, we decided to undertake a two-week experiment of spending the majority of our sourcing budget and time on shoes and then just see what kind of sales we could get before deciding whether or not to continue buying shoes. I’ll talk more in detail in the next post about why making a decision based on this kind of experiment isn’t the best idea when it comes to learning the shoe category, but for now I’ll just say we were less than enthused about the results. We asked a bunch of questions from people who know the ins and outs of the category, and after some soul searching (or sole searching – another pun! OK, I’ll stop) we decided to keep at it.

I’m so glad we did! I was afraid all the hype about shoes was just that…hype. But for us, shoes have lived up to their incredible reputation as an Amazon FBA profit powerhouse.

Shoes aren’t for everyone, and we’ll spend some time over the next couple of posts discussing the ways we’ve run into issues and learned to overcome those obstacles. Our hope is that this series of posts will give you a way to make an informed decision about whether or not to try out the shoe category.

Do you sell shoes on Amazon? Do you have any reasons to add to our list above? Let us hear from you in the comments! We would also love to hear your questions about selling shoes as we continue this blog series over the next couple of weeks.

Amazon’s Latest Long Term Storage Fee Policy Update

long-term-storageIf you have an account as an Amazon FBA seller, you received an email this week with this subject line: Free removal of selected FBA inventory through October 14, 2016.

Wow, that’s good news, right? But did you keep reading the email to find out what Amazon was really saying in this email?

This wasn’t an email about a random period of time with free removals of inventory. This email was to notify FBA sellers of a change to Amazon’s policy about long term storage fees.

On August 15 and February 15 of each year, Amazon charges long term storage fees for items at their FBA warehouses. If items have been at the warehouse for longer than 6 months as of the fee date, those items are charged $11.25 per cubic foot; items at the warehouse longer than 12 months are charged $22.50 per cubic foot.

In the past, Amazon has granted an exemption from the long term storage fee for one unit per ASIN. Basically, the long term storage fee only applied to items with multiple units at the warehouses. If your item was a one-off, there was no long term storage fee.

exemptionsThis is where the change comes in. Moving forward, Amazon will be charging long term storage fees for all items at FBA warehouses longer than 6 months as of the fee date, regardless of whether you only have one unit of that ASIN. No more exemptions for one-off items. (Note: Amazon is offering a free removal of one unit per ASIN from now until October 14, 2016, as a way to help sellers deal with these changes. For our video about how to create removal orders, click here.)

If you know me at all, you know that my approach to this change is not to panic. Getting freaked out over these types of changes really doesn’t help your business’ bottom line. Instead, here are a few points for you to consider about the changes in long term storage fees:

5 Points to Consider about Changes in Long Term Storage Fees:

  1. amazon-warehouseUnderstand that Amazon does not want to be your long term storage solution.

The above statement is nothing new. Amazon has been trying to tell sellers for the past few years that FBA warehouses cannot be their long term storage solution. When I first started selling on Amazon, there were no long term storage fees. More and more sellers began using the Amazon platform, and the warehouses started filling up. So Amazon instituted 12 month long term storage fees. The warehouses continued to fill up. So Amazon instituted 6 month long term storage fees. The warehouses are still filling up. So Amazon put in place steeper monthly storage fees during Q4, and now they’re removing the exemption for one unit per ASIN for long term fees.

Surely we should be getting the picture. Amazon wants us to send inventory to FBA warehouses that will sell relatively fast. Amazon doesn’t want to be a long term storage facility. To find out exactly what your long term storage fees will be, click here.

  1. keep-calm-change-can-be-goodThis change is an opportunity to improve your business model.

As with anything in life, mindset goes a long way towards determining our outcomes. Do you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset about these policy changes? Do you see the fee changes as a huge blow to your business? Then it will be a huge blow to your business. Do you see the fee changes as a chance to tighten up your inventory and streamline your processes? Then your business will improve as a result.

If you sell a lot of books or shoes, these changes might impact you more because of the long-tail nature of selling in those categories. How can you approach these changes as an opportunity to adjust your business model and continue to achieve success in selling on Amazon? Look for the opportunities to grow and adapt, rather than feeling doomed because things will be different moving forward.

  1. 6-months-long-tail The term “long-tail” is being redefined.

Whether we like it or not, 6 months just became the new long-tail. In the past, long-tail might be as long as 2 or 3 years. But unless you can find items with such a massively high return on investment (ROI) that you can absorb the monthly storage fees and long term storage fees on one-off items, long-tail might need to be no more than 6 months moving forward.

Do we like these changes? Not really. Will it shut down our business? No, because we have a balanced inventory model that depends on fast nickels, slow dimes, and really slow quarters. Fast nickels make a lower ROI, but they do it relatively quickly. Slow dimes take a bit longer to sell, but we get higher ROI. Really slow quarters have fantastic ROI, but who knows how long it will take to sell. Moving forward, we have to make sourcing decisions based on whether or not storage fees will eat into the ROI too much on our slow quarters. For some sellers, this isn’t a huge deal; for others, you might want to redefine your parameters for what types of long-tail items you are willing to source.

  1. price-tag-267x300Now is the time to be more proactive about repricing.

Whether you choose to manually reprice as we do (see how we do it in this blog post) or subscribe to a repricer, now is the time to make sure your inventory is priced competitively.

Please do not hear me say, “Drop your prices! Sell it all NOW!” What I’m saying is that if you’ve been accustomed in the past to setting your prices when you send in inventory and then never looking at the prices again, you’re going to need to adapt and begin checking your prices on at least a semi-regular basis to make sure they’re still competitive. Be proactive in repricing throughout the year so that you don’t have to be reactive in repricing every August 14 or February 14 to avoid long term storage fees.

  1. sourcing-buy-yes-noConsider tightening your sourcing parameters for the future.

Moving forward you might need to change how you decide whether or not to buy an inventory item. You might need to look for items with a lower sales rank or with fewer competitors, in order to get a faster sales velocity. I highly recommend learning how to read CamelCamelCamel and Keepa graphs so you can make smarter sourcing decisions (click here for a Camel tutorial and here for a Keepa tutorial).

positivesUltimately, these changes to long term storage fees can have minimal negative effects and actually have positive effects on your Amazon FBA business if you handle them correctly. A few positives I see potentially happening as a result of these changes:

* We can improve our skills as sourcers.

By tightening our sourcing parameters and looking for faster moving inventory, we will expand our abilities as sourcers. It may seem slow going at first, but over time we will be able to find better inventory much faster.

Cut-Lead-Costs-in-Half-and-Increase-Sales-Revenue-by-105-Percent* These changes will likely weed out our competition.

New fees are a hurdle that many sellers won’t want to jump over. Many sellers are likely to give up when the going gets tough and move on to another venture. That’s less competition for us…so stick with it and don’t be one of the ones to move on!

* Finding faster turning inventory will improve your bottom line.

If you improve your sourcing skills and find better inventory, you will get more sales and make more profits. You will have higher disbursements that you can then reinvest more quickly into more inventory…again and again. Thank you, Amazon, for helping us get more sales in the long run!

If you want more from me on this topic, be sure to watch the video below. This blog post is full of the highlights, but in this video, I add even more thoughts, tips, and strategies to handle this recent change.

So how are you going to handle these changes? Are you going to have a growth mindset and leverage these fee changes into an opportunity to improve your business? That’s the course I recommend, along with taking advantage of the free removal of one unit per ASIN through October 14, 2016.

How to Know What to Do Next in Your Amazon FBA Business

what-to-do-nextInformation about selling on Amazon is everywhere… Blogs, Facebook groups, YouTube, eBooks, video courses, and even live conferences. There is such a vast amount of information available, both free and paid, how can you ever filter through all the noise and decide on your best course of action?

I wish I could just tell you exactly what to do next, but that would not be the best advice to give you. Your situation, your finances, your time, your skills, and your passions are all unique to you, and therefor what you need to do next is also unique to you.

While I can’t give you a simple step by step process on exactly what to do next, here are 5 things you need to think about that will help you see your next steps with much more clarity.

manage-time1. TIME – I think the first thing you need to do is to consider how much your time is worth to you… If you have a TON of time available, then it’s not a bad idea to look for as much free information online as you can. If you don’t have a lot of free time, then I recommend purchasing a quality course/book/conference so you can streamline your time and get focused information all in one place.

banner-quality2. QUALITY – Of course, you want to be sure that the info you learn from (either free or paid) is of top quality. The best way to do this is to put what the person teaches to the test. For paid content, see if the author has a lot of free content to consume first… then if you see the quality of the free content, purchase the paid content, since you know it’ll be good. If you have to pay to find out if the information is high quality, then make sure there is a refund policy, and then get your money back if it’s not up to your standards.

trust3. TRUST – You want to be sure you can trust the person teaching you. Again, if you can put any author’s teaching into action and get good results, you can trust their other material is good too. Trust can also come from the teacher showing you their results and proving that what they teach has worked for then. For example, here on this blog it’s our goal to help you turn part time hours into a full time income with Amazon FBA… and that’s exactly what we do. I spend about 20 hours a week on Amazon FBA and our disbursements pay our bills. We are full-time FBA sellers and from that I would think you could trust us.

photo-sep-12-11-27-57-am4. FOCUS – This is the big one… I love the acronym for FOCUS: Follow One Course Until Successful. I even have that phrase on a Post It Note on my desk. It’s so easy to think that some new strategy or book will be the answer… but if we have not followed through on strategy #1, then why would we think strategy #2 or #3 will work better? Here’s a question: Who do you think finds success faster? Person A or Person B? Person A works on learning RA on Monday, learning OA on Tuesday, learning Wholesale on Wednesday, learning Private Label on Thursday, and learning Merch on Friday… or Person B who learns ONE STRATEGY on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Of course the person who FOCUSES will find success faster.

follow-your-passion5. PASSION – Passion is the fuel that pushes you forward and helps you avoid burnout. What strategy do you feel passionate about? Which one gets you most excited? Follow that strategy until successful, and then you can look to add another strategy once your first strategy gets put on autopilot. If you’re passionate about the idea of sourcing from home via online arbitrage, then focus on that… if you love the thrill of a retail arbitrage treasure hunt, then focus on that. If you love making T-shirts, then focus on Merch. Pick something you’re passionate about and see it through.

So if you’re wondering what you need to do next in your Amazon business, you can think about the above points and see which strategy/book/blog/course/etc stands out to you… and then follow it through until successful. If you’ve started a book or course and then are tempted to jump ship to some “shiny” new strategy, just calm yourself down and finish that book or course until you can see results. If you find something that you’re passionate about and see it through until the end, you will thank yourself for the results, and you’ll continue on your road toward success that much faster.

I hope these five tips will help you find direction in what you need to do next in your Amazon FBA business. Now, I’d love to hear from you. What methods or strategies have you found to be helpful when deciding what your next step needs to be with your Amazon FBA business?

Calculating Amazon FBA Fees – Know Your Numbers and Make Better Buying Decisions

Know Your Numbers - FeesA while back I saw a super scary video. It was truly horrifying. I still have nightmares when I think about it for too long.

I showed a short clip of this video to my wife. She actually screamed at the TV: “Nooooooo!!!!!!!!” She was just as terrified as I was.

In this video people were walking the aisles of a big box retail store, scanning toys with the Amazon app. Not the Amazon Seller app. The Amazon app. The one you use to buy merchandise from Amazon. These people were looking up toys on Amazon, comparing the price on the retail store shelf, and loading up a shopping cart if the price was even the slightest bit higher on Amazon. They intended to buy this shopping cart full of toys and sell them on Amazon.

As if this scenario weren’t gruesome enough, these people were actually encouraging their viewers to go out and do the same thing. They exuberantly proclaimed that anyone can sell on Amazon, see, look, there’s merchandise everywhere that sells higher on Amazon than in stores. You, too, should go out and buy toys by the shopping cart load, and just send them in to Amazon and wait for your paycheck.

At this point you might be ready to ask me a few questions. “How is this scene any different than what you do in your Amazon FBA business every day? Don’t you use retail arbitrage as one of your strategies for finding FBA inventory? Isn’t that what these folks are doing – and showing others how to do?”

The key difference boils down to one simple factor: I never buy an item for resale without knowing the Amazon FBA fees for that item first. If someone were to actually follow the methods these people were using in this Amazon FBA horror movie, they would be hit with fees they hadn’t calculated beforehand and suffer financial loss.

2631823For anyone who wants to make a profit running an FBA business, you have to know your numbers. You have to know all of your expenses, including inbound shipping, taxes where applicable, prep fees, materials, and the cost of any subscriptions or services you buy. You also have to have a good handle on the FBA fees that apply to any items you intend to have Amazon fulfill for you.

If you aren’t aware, the name of this blog is Full-Time FBA. About 99% of our Amazon business is through the FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) program. We do choose to Merchant Fulfill items on occasion (check out our YouTube video where we discuss those occasions), but overall we prefer to stick with having Amazon fulfill our inventory when a customer buys it (see also our blog post “Overcoming Your Fear of Selling via FBA versus Merchant Fulfilled or eBay”).

There are 4 easy ways you can calculate the potential Amazon FBA fees before you buy an inventory item. We’ve listed below two options for calculating fees on your smart phone and two for calculating fees on a web browser:

  1. AZ Seller app screen shotAmazon Seller app – FREE

The Amazon Seller app is free and allows you to scan items either by barcode or using Amazon Flow (the camera of your phone recognizes an item’s image and matches it with the product in the Amazon catalog). The Amazon Seller app allows you to see the fees for an item if you sell it Merchant Fulfilled or through FBA. It allows you to adjust your selling price, your inbound shipping cost, and the cost of purchase. It then subtracts the fees and your cost of purchases, giving you your estimated net proceeds. (See this blog post for more pros and cons on the Amazon Seller app.)

  1. Photo Apr 15, 10 23 15 PMThird party scanning app, like Scoutify, Profit Bandit, or ScanPower – PAID

Similar to the Amazon Seller app, third party scanning apps allow you to scan items by barcode or enter a text search for the item. Third party apps also allow you to adjust selling price, inbound shipping, and cost of purchase before you subtract out the FBA fees and see your estimated net proceeds. We personally use Scoutify most often when sourcing, with Profit Bandit being our back-up on occasion. (For more info on third party scanning apps, check out our blog post about why we use Scoutify.)

  1. FBA CalculatorThe FBA Calculator website – FREE

If you are doing product research on a web browser, Amazon Seller Central has an FBA revenue calculator where you can enter the ASIN, UPC, or product name of an item and do the same calculations as above to find out your potential fees and potential profit. We highly recommend creating a bookmark for the revenue calculator so you can easily reference it when making online purchases, determining prices for your inventory during the listing process, or repricing your inventory after it’s at the warehouse. We’ve also created a quick link for the calculator: www.fulltimefba.com/calculator

To see the FBA revenue calculator in action, I’ve created a screen capture video explaining how it works.

  1. Scanalyze 1Google Chrome extensions, like Scanalyze  – PAID

Another easy way to see FBA fees when doing online arbitrage or product research is by using Google Chrome extensions that show the fees right on the Amazon product page. We use Scanalyze (available through the Cyber Monkey Deals website) and love it. You simply click the “Scanalyze” button and the fee calculator pops up at the bottom of your screen.

Scanalyze 2

Hopefully you’re equipped now to calculate your fees and know up front what your profit potential is before you buy inventory to send to Amazon. Please don’t become another victim in a scary movie! You can make good choices. You can build a profitable Amazon FBA business because you know your numbers.

How to Handle Unfair Amazon Reimbursements

Unfair ReimbursementsWhen Amazon loses or damages one of your inventory items, it is their policy to either 1) find a replacement for your lost/damaged inventory, or 2) reimburse you the replacement value of your lost inventory (less any applicable FBA and selling on Amazon fees, of course).

This is how most people imagine this reimbursement policy being lived out in real life:

670px-Put-a-Rubik's-Cube-Back-Together-Step-1“You find a great item to resell, price it competitively at $24.99, and send it to an Amazon FBA warehouse. Amazon accidentally drops and breaks your item, so they now owe you a reimbursement. Amazon takes your $24.99 selling price, takes out the fees as if you had sold the item, and then reimburses you $18.42.”

Unfortunately, this is not how many Amazon reimbursements work out. Did you know that when Amazon reimburses you for lost or damaged items, they have specific rules they are supposed to follow when coming up with the amount they are to reimburse you? It might surprise you to know that Amazon sometimes (not all the time) fails to follow their own reimbursement rules.

Here are the set of factors Amazon is supposed to consider when calculating the reimbursement amount:

  1. Your sales history – Is this an item you sell often, and what is the price you usually sell it for?
  2. The current average FBA selling price – What is the average of the most recent (no number is given) sales prices for that item.
  3. Other factors (Amazon doesn’t explain what these “other” factors are).
  4. Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 3.54.14 PMIf Amazon doesn’t have enough information to establish a reasonable value for an item, then the replacement value is determined based on a default replacement value from the table pictured to the right.

Here’s the deal… I have never ever seen a reimbursement that has followed the above table, so in my experience, Amazon comes up with their own reimbursement amounts based on something other than this table, something a bit more subjective.

In reality, this is how Amazon’s reimbursement policy is lived out more times than not:

728px-Disassemble-a-Rubik's-Cube-Step-3“You find a great item to resell, price it competitively at $24.99, and send it to an Amazon FBA warehouse. Amazon accidentally drops and breaks your item, so they now owe you a reimbursement. Amazon takes your $24.99 selling price, and somehow decides to reimburse you only $10.54.”

Did you notice that? If Amazon took your FBA selling price, and took out the correct fees, then they should have reimbursed you $18.42, not $10.54. What’s going on? The truth is, I’m not sure what’s going on, but I do know what to do to get the reimbursement you think you deserve.

How to know if you received a fair reimbursement:

  1. When you get a reimbursement, do some quick research.
    1. Research Part 1:
      1. Take the ASIN and put it in the Amazon.com search bar and find the product page.
      2. Click on the link to view the current FBA offers.
      3. Take 3-5 of the current lowest FBA sales prices and find an average. This number will be your current FBA average selling price.
    2. Research Part 2:
      1. Take the ASIN and put it in the FBA revenue calculator.
      2. Input the current FBA average selling price (that you calculated above) on the Item Price line under the Amazon Fulfillment column.
      3. Click the yellow Calculate button.
      4. Write down two numbers: the Cost (Amazon fees) and the Margin Impact (your profits after fees)
    3. Research Part 3:
      1. Repeat Research Part 2, but instead of the current FBA average selling price, use your original selling price you had priced for that item.
  2. Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 8.13.40 PMCompare your Margin Impact number of the current FBA average selling price (found in Research Part 1) with your reimbursement amount. Also, compare your Margin Impact with your original selling price with the actual reimbursement amount.
  3. Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 3.10.48 PMIf the difference is big, then it’s time to open up a ticket with Amazon and request an additional reimbursement (more on that in a minute).
  4. If the difference is small, then just let it go and move on with your business. Opening up a ticket with Amazon and dealing with getting a higher reimbursement amount can take some time. So, for most cases, it’s not worth your time to fight a reimbursement that is only a few dollars difference. Value your time and only fight a low reimbursement when you think it’s worth the time to dispute it.

How to get the reimbursement you deserve:

  1. Open up a ticket with Amazon. If you’re not familiar with the process, here is a quick video from our YouTube channel on how to open up a ticket with Amazon.
  2. Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 8.17.09 PMWhen contacting Amazon, choose the option to open a ticket about Fulfillment By Amazon, and then click FBA Issue. Yes, it’s redundant, but it’s how Amazon has things set up right now.
  3. Click on the Something Else button.
  4. Choose your method of communication. Personally, I like to use email because there is a written record of the communication, and I can communicate without being interrupted.
  5. Enter the ASIN in question for the reimbursement in the proper field.
  6. In the “Please Describe your Issue” field, write this:
    “I received a reimbursement for ASIN __________, but it was not a fair reimbursement amount. I was reimbursed $$10.54, when I should have been reimbursed $18.42. I have calculated the correct reimbursement number using my sales history (My average selling price is $24.99) as well as the current FBA sales prices (the current FBA average selling price is $24.76). Here is the math:
    $24.99 (my sales price) – $6.57 (applicable fees) = $18.42 (correct reimbursement amount.
    Would you please approve an additional reimbursement of $7.88 ($18.42 – $10.54 = $7.88)? I would really appreciate it. Thank you for your time.”
  7. Click Send and a new case will be opened.

Keep Calm Do the mathWhen you go to the trouble to show the Amazon representative that you’ve done the math and spell it out for them, they are much more likely to approve your additional reimbursement request than if you only complained about your reimbursement amount. You’ve basically done all the work for them and they don’t have much to argue with.

When you open up a new case for an additional reimbursement, someone who works for Amazon will review your case and will reply. When you get a reply, one of three things will happen:

  1. You will get the reimbursement that you deserve. (YAY!)
  2. You will be requested to provide more information such as a receipt or invoice of that item.
  3. You will get a form letter from an Amazon employee that probably didn’t read your entire message and is just responding with a “copy and paste” reply that basically states back Amazon’s current reimbursement policies. They will then close the case.

If Amazon asks for more information (like a receipt):

ReceiptsI don’t know why Amazon asks for a receipt or invoice in order to get a proper reimbursement of a lost or damaged item. It might be in case you never really sent Amazon the item, and Amazon says they lost it, but in reality you never sent it, so Amazon wants proof you actually purchased it to sell on Amazon. No matter the case, I have never sent Amazon a receipt in reply to this response. Here is how I reply:

“I’m not sure why you are asking for a receipt or invoice in order to determine the proper reimbursement amount for this item. The reimbursement amount is supposed to be calculated by looking at my sales history, as well as the current FBA selling prices.”

I would then copy and paste the math I provided earlier so that all the information is in one place for the Amazon rep to make a decision.

If your request for an additional reimbursement was declined and the case was closed:

escalate-300x2911If you didn’t get the additional reimbursement you expected, the next step is to re-open the case. When you re-open the case, be sure to ask that the case be “escalated” and for that Amazon rep to hand the case off to one of their supervisors. Be sure you use the word “escalate” because the Amazon employees know and understand that word and that you mean business. You can re-open the case and communicate something like this:

“Thank you for your response, but it did not solve the issue. I would like to escalate this case to your supervisor. Please have your supervisor read through our previous communications and reply to me at their earliest convenience. Thanks and have a great day.”

Usually when you escalate a case, your request will be forwarded to the Amazon rep’s supervisor who will more than likely approve your request.

Stickerline-elsa-let-it-goIf, after all this, Amazon still doesn’t reimburse you any more, then it’s time to let it go and move on with your business, but the majority of the time you will end up with an additional reimbursement.

For more information about Amazon’s FBA Lost and Damaged Inventory Reimbursement Policy, just click here.

Want more? Two fantastic resources to make sure you’re getting all the reimbursements you deserve are The Amazon Refund Guide (a do-it-yourself book for all things reimbursements) and AMZSuite (a really affordable service that does most of your reimbursement work for you). We have personally used both of these resources and found great success at getting reimbursements!

So how about you? This is how I handle unfair reimbursements, but do you have any more ideas on how to get the reimbursement amount you deserve? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.