Category Archives: Grocery

Responding To The Latest Changes In Amazon Selling

changes-ahead-road-sign

Updated for March 2016. First posted May 2014.

The past few days have seen many Amazon sellers freaking out about the latest Amazon policy update. I’ve even heard of people saying they are going to quit selling on Amazon because of this change. In all honesty, I think that most people are just overreacting and it’s really not as bad as people think.

If you haven’t heard about the latest policy update from Amazon, then I’ll sum it up for you right here. Amazon is starting to restrict some 3rd party sellers from sending inventory of certain ASINs to Amazon FBA warehouses. You may have seen this policy update in action if you’ve listed anything lately and received this message:

You are already at the maximum inventory allowed for this product, due to capacity or other restrictions. This product must be removed from this shipment.

amazonwarehouse-Flickr_Scott_LewisBasically, Amazon thinks that it already has enough of that particular ASIN being stored at its multiple FBA warehouses, and there is no longer a need for more of that ASIN to be sent to Amazon. Amazon doesn’t want to store 500 of the same item when they know it will only sell twice a month. Sure, the new policy has been showing up on some very low ranked ASINs with no FBA competition, but I think that’s just a glitch in their algorithm that they will soon fix.

For some Amazon sellers, this new ASIN restriction is causing severe panic… but it doesn’t have to. This is not the first time Amazon has implemented a new policy that changed how people sell on Amazon, and it won’t be the last. There is no reason to panic over this change.

If you’ve been selling on Amazon for any length of time, maybe you remember some of these changes…

  • Amazon announces a new 6-month long term storage fee that would be in addition to the 12-month storage fee.
  • Amazon requires approval to sell any toy related to Star Wars Episode 7.
  • Amazon closes the categories for Grocery, Beauty, and Health & Personal Care and people who want to sell these items need to be approved.
  • Amazon “froze” everyone’s toys related to the movie Frozen to check on counterfeit claims and then requires anyone who wants to sell Frozen related toys to seek approval.
  • Amazon announces a new 12-month long term storage fee in addition to the monthly storage fees.
  • Amazon begins to split up shipments to different warehouses.

The changes that Amazon makes have the potential to be discouraging to us as Amazon sellers. But we have a choice whether or not we’re going to let these changes get us down.

So what are your options in the face of these changes? You could see all these frustrations as a sign of things to come and you could quit selling on Amazon altogether… You could go to Facebook and complain about these changes (and miss out on time sourcing, packing, shipping, or even miss out on valuable family time)… OR, you could adapt to the changes and make the most of your mental, emotional, and physical energy to push your business to the next level.

change-quoteChange happens. It’s inevitable. Most of the time, we have absolutely no say or influence in the changes that occur. The only thing we have control of is our response to change. Those who are going to succeed in this reselling line of work are those who will adapt to the changes and make the most of every situation.

Amazon stopping you from selling slow moving inventory with the ASIN restrictions? Stop over-worrying about it and focus on finding faster turning items to send in to Amazon. Amazon putting an ASIN restriction on the wrong items? Don’t complain about it on Facebook; instead open up a ticket with Seller Central and politely ask them to look into the ASIN restriction on that item and see if the restriction can be lifted.

Learn. Adjust. Grow. Learn more. Adapt.

These changes will not be the last ones. More changes will come, but the important thing for you to do is to focus on how you will respond to these changes. Those who will win are the ones who will respond with wisdom, patience, and a renewed desire to accomplish their overall goals, no matter what happens.

So what about you? How do you respond to changes in your business? I’d love to hear how you make the most of these changes. 

 

Overcoming Your Fear of Branching out into New Categories

Fear of New CategoriesMany of us got our start on Amazon selling books or toys. For most of us, at some point after we get our feet wet selling via FBA, the idea comes into our minds to expand beyond those entry-level categories. We hear over and over about the new hot Amazon category of the month that’s guaranteed to cause your profits to explode, and we start to wonder…should I try selling in that category? Will it be worth my time? Are the profits in that category really all that great? Is there inventory available for me to purchase? Will I be able to find good deals for resale?

Those are all valid questions and ones we’ve considered at great length for our own FBA business. Some of those questions lead into another fear we’ll be mentioning in a later post in this series, FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Not every shiny new category that’s currently all the rage is worth pursuing with everything you’ve got, but there are definitely great benefits to branching out to try new categories:

  1. eggs-in-one-basketIt’s a good idea not to keep all your eggs in one basket/category. Diversifying your inventory can mean adding greater seasonal profits to your business as well as a nice stream of slow-but-steady profits throughout the year, depending on the category.
  2. You never know until you try something whether or not you will succeed at it. If you’re only selling toys but decide to test out a few kitchen items, you may discover a profitable niche that you absolutely love.
  3. Items for resale are available everywhere, everywhere, and if you pass something by because it’s in an unfamiliar category, well, you’re passing up money. You’re in this business to make money, aren’t you?

So what is it that’s holding you back from branching out into new categories?  You know the old adage about how the best way to conquer your fears is to confront them? That’s so very true for me (Rebecca) with these fears about new categories. I look back now and realize how big my fear seemed at the time (big enough to keep us from moving forward in that aspect of our business), but how manageable it all seems now, from the other side of it.

I want to share with you three fears that I personally have dealt with over the past couple of years, along with the corresponding truths that are so evident to me now.

Fear of the Grocery and Beauty Categories I’m afraid of products with expiration dates. I don’t want to get in trouble for selling an expired product to someone.

17r2xyp8wr6v2jpgTruth – Amazon won’t let you sell someone an expired product, so this fear of mine was completely groundless. When items with an expiration date are checked into the FBA warehouses, the workers note the expiration date (which we have clearly labeled on the product during prep), so that the item can be automatically pulled from active inventory and disposed of by Amazon 50 days before expiration (see Amazon guidelines here).

Now, what I learned later is that I should be more concerned about keeping track of my upcoming expiration dates either so that I make sure my inventory sells before the time frame when Amazon disposes of it, or so that I can create a removal order before Amazon disposes of it. This initially required my setting up a spreadsheet to keep track of expiration dates; we are now monitoring these dates with reminders in our listing program. Expiration dates are completely manageable, and if I had let this fear continue to paralyze me, we would have missed out on a lot of profits over the past couple of years.

Fear of the Clothing and Shoes Categories – I’m afraid of making a bad buying decision with all the variations available. Size, color, so many unknowns. The price and sales rank history on camelcamelcamel.com just isn’t there like it is in other categories, and my scanning apps aren’t working the same way with these items. I’m afraid this is too much for me to learn.

Truth – There’s no way around it, categories with variations are just downright intimidating. But just as with anything else in this business, making good buying decisions on items with variations is a skill that can be learned.

One way to acquire this skill is through education. Read everything you can about selling in these categories. There are ebooks, courses, and guides available for purchase on this topic, but there are also plenty of free resources out there.

Search Feature FacebookA great method for educating yourself is through Facebook groups. Now, I don’t mean go out and join a bunch of groups and post, “Hi, I want to know about selling shoes, please tell me everything there is to know” until someone answers your question. A better, more efficient approach would be to use the search feature within Facebook groups. Type in search terms like shoes, shoe sizes, shoe ranks, etc, and read all the older posts related to the topic you want to learn. You would be amazed at how many people have already asked the very question you want to ask, and you’re likely to learn a ton of great info by reading through the comments.

The other main way to learn how to make good buying decisions with clothing and shoes, I’m sorry to say, is by trial and error. Good old experimentation. We all want to learn without having to pay any type of cost, but sometimes the best way to learn is by making mistakes. Sometimes you really can’t know what your buying parameters should be for a new category until you just test the waters by making some purchases and seeing how they do when you send them in to the FBA warehouse.

Fear of Gated Categories – Getting ungated is hard. Flat files. Ewww.

automaticGatesTruth – Getting ungated is easier now than ever. Especially during periods of automatic approvals (is that still going on?). But even if you are required to submit photos, flat files, or invoices for category approval, there are ways to make the process simpler.

We were grandfathered into the grocery and beauty categories, but we did have to apply for clothing and shoes. For the shoe category, we used the category assistance service offered by The Selling Family. They helped us with every step of the process, responded quickly to emails when Amazon asked us for corrections, and provided all the files we needed to submit. With their service we were ungated in shoes within 48 hours.

For the clothing category, we chose a different route. This time we used the instructional videos from a “do it yourself” category approval course (which is still in beta testing) to go through the ungating process on our own. The videos were very thorough, covering every aspect of filling in the flat files and editing our photos. Again, we were ungated in the clothing category within 48 hours of starting the process with this course. [We’ll update this blog post once this “do it yourself” category approval course is officially released.]

Screen shot 2012-05-19 at 4.57.04 PMIf you’re literate in Excel and really good at following instructions, you could do it the old-fashioned way and complete the process on your own without any assistance. It will take you more time this way, so really the decision comes down to whether you want to spend the time to do it yourself or spend the money to have someone help you.

So there you have it. Our three biggest fears about branching out into new Amazon categories. Shining a light on those fears shows them to be needless — they are surmountable with a little thought and effort.

We’d love to hear from you about your greatest success stories in overcoming your fears of new categories — or the biggest fear you’re facing now that you want some encouragement for. Let us hear from you in the comments!

Adding Grocery to Your Amazon Sourcing Strategy

At the beginning of 2014, Stephen and I (Rebecca) sat down and discussed our goals for the coming year — individually, as a family, and for our business. We both love setting goals and working towards them, relishing the feeling of success that comes from seeing improvement as a result of consistent work. (If you haven’t read our post on SMARTER goals, you should take a look at it and see if it gives you some ideas for goal setting in your FBA business.)

One of our top goals for the FBA business this year was to branch out into sourcing at liquidation stores. Coming out of Q4, we had a nice amount of capital to invest, and we felt the time was right to push ourselves beyond the places we’d been sourcing in 2013. We took that opportunity to conduct a little “liquidation store experiment” — you can read more about our first liquidation store visit and our experience with Jessica Larrew’s book Liquidation Gold in this blog post. The short version is this: we enjoyed our first visit and have since made liquidation stores a part of our normal sourcing routine.

grocery-goldmine-284x300So far, we’ve had more success at finding grocery items to resell from liquidation stores than items in health, beauty, or any other category. Because of this success, we wanted to broaden our knowledge of sourcing for grocery items. Once again we turned to Jessica Larrew, this time to her book with Beth Maus, Grocery Goldmine: Real World Strategies for Selling Groceries on Amazon.

 

Just as Liquidation Gold gave us both knowledge and motivation to find liquidation stores in our area and start sourcing, Grocery Goldmine helped us think strategically about our goals for our grocery inventory and how we wanted to accomplish them. Jessica and Beth don’t just write out a list of items or stores and say, “Here’s where to go and what to buy. Get after it.” They walk you through the thinking behind certain decisions you’ll make for your grocery inventory: how to get the highest profit margin possible, how to be competitive in a growing market, how to make the tough decision to pass up an item that’s good for an item that’s great.

 

groceriesAt the end of each section, they give “Real World Examples” and short assignments for you to complete. I found this part of each section to be extremely helpful. The Real World Examples make the concepts concrete, and the assignments are designed to get you started on putting into practice what you’ve learned. They aren’t theoretical assignments, either — I mean, at the end of one section, I turned off my Kindle and immediately went to the grocery store to finish the assignment. I guess I could have waited to go, but I was so pumped about the potential for finding new inventory that I just got up and left. I came home that day with five items to test selling through FBA. Within this past month since that first trip, all but one item has sold already, and we’ve restocked one of those five items multiple times. We’ve started sourcing at a handful of other stores in our area and continue to come up with new ideas for where to source for groceries.

 

Overall, we’ve been very pleased with the addition of grocery items to our inventory this year. We’re not slowing down with our previous big selling categories (toys, books, home, kitchen), but grocery has added a nice stream of income along with the other categories. We really like that the additional sourcing for groceries keeps our schedule each week different and interesting, and it has the potential for a measure of stability (translation: people buy groceries from Amazon all year long, not just in Q4).

 

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 7.24.10 PMLet me finish up with a word about the restrictions Amazon has put in place for the grocery category. Don’t let the restriction scare you off. If you’ve been selling grocery items on Amazon before now, then you should already be approved to sell in that category. If you have not been approved, all you need to do is follow this link (sign-in required) to apply.

Category ApprovalMy friend, Jessica has put together the exact steps you can follow to get approved in grocery (as well as other categories). To find out exactly what to do, click here, and then type this into the search bar: “how to get approval in the restricted categories on Amazon for FBA Sellers.” That will lead you to a page that will help walk you through many categories and how to get approved.

Once approved (most requests take about 24-48 hours to process), then you can start adding grocery items to your growing Amazon business model.

Grocery Goldmine is worth its weight in gold. It includes over 25 chapters with 80 pages of information that will get you excited about adding grocery to your Amazon sourcing strategy. The book also includes 4 bonuses. The bonuses include a video on creating multi packs, a bonus chapter of creating bundles, a video on photo editing for new grocery listings, and more.

So what about you? What successes have you found in the grocery category?