Category Archives: Returns

Top 10 Tips For Finishing Strong in 2016

finishing-strong-2016First off, if you can see this… thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read today’s blog post. I know Q4 is crazy busy, and I hope my blog posts can help you take action t0 save time and increase your profits.

As we all know, the holiday selling season is in full bloom, and I hope you’ve been able to stock the Amazon warehouses with as much quality inventory as you possibly can. It seems pretty obvious to say, but you can’t sell a lot of items if you don’t have a lot of items in stock. To help you continue to make this month your best selling month ever, here are my top ten tips for finishing strong in 2016:

christmas-lights1. Reprice holiday related items. It’s crunch time. Log into Seller Central and check all of your holiday related items in your inventory. Do a keyword search for words like “holiday” and “Christmas” and make sure that all of your holiday items are competitively priced. While some of these seasonal items actually sell throughout the year, there might still be some in stock that you need to reprice. As always, double check with CamelCamelCamel and Keepa to see what prices and sales you could possibly expect. If you have multiples of higher ranked holiday items, it’s probably a good time to lower your prices to get the sale. You don’t want to hold on to these items another full year… especially with long term stores fees coming up in February.

2. The week before Christmas is a Prime spending frenzy! For items sold through FBA, hold on to your prices that you think will sell for Christmas. It’s not rare to see an item going for $15 on December 14th to be selling for $25 on December 19th. This is especially true for items where you’re the only FBA seller or one of a few FBA sellers. On the other hand, if the competition for sales is fierce, you might want to lower your price just a little to sell out before the newbie Amazon sellers freak out and lower their prices too far.

returns.jpg3. Be prepared for an increase in returns. Naturally, with an increase in sales, there is also an increase in returns. Don’t let this make you anxious or worried. It’s a natural part of selling. As you might already know, Amazon automatically refunds the FBA customer the full purchase price when the buyer requests to return an item. If the buyer fails to return the item to Amazon, then Amazon is supposed to automatically reimburse you for the item after 45 days have passed, but many times Amazon “forgets” and needs to be reminded. For more about how to make sure returned items are actually returned to Amazon, check out this popular blog post.

feedback4. Be prepared for an increase in negative and/or positive feedback. If you’re keeping to best business practices, then you’ll most likely get lots of new positive (4 or 5) feedback, but you’ll also get the occasional negative (1 or 2) or neutral (3) feedback score. If the feedback is actually about the FBA process (“my item came 2 days late”) or a product review (“this coffee maker is hard to use”), then it’s up to you to do whatever you can to get the feedback removed. Your feedback score is a huge aspect of your seller metrics. The better seller metrics you have, the more opportunities you’ll have to earn the buy box for your products. To read more about how I handle feedback issues (and how I keep a 100% feedback score), then check out this blog post.

5. Look at sales ranks differently. As you already know, the sales velocity in December shoots through the roof! This should make you look at sales rank differently than during the rest of the year. Here is an example: A toy with a sales rank of 10,000 in July might sell 25 times a week… while a toy with a rank of 10,000 in December might sell 50 times a day. This is important to know when you are out sourcing for inventory. Know that after Christmas and into January, many of these sales ranks will start to return to their normal patterns (slower sales), and it’s up to you to recalibrate your mind to what you need to expect when you’re out sourcing. Again, look at CamelCamelCamel and Keepa to see what prices and sales velocity to expect in January.

targetstore6. Be careful with sale prices at retail chain stores. Retail stores are realizing that they need to do whatever it takes to sell their stuff as soon as possible. Often, this means some outrageous clearance sales. But be careful, the items you’re finding clearanced at large national chains might be the same items hundreds of other resellers are finding. You don’t want to be slow moving on these sales. If you decide to buy, you need to get those items to Amazon as fast as possible… and I wouldn’t recommend going too deep. It’s possible that Amazon is about to be flooded with these items from other resellers sourcing at the same sales in their town. Buy fast, prep fast, and ship fast so it can sell fast.

7. Profit from selling items Merchant Fulfilled. We all love selling via FBA, but this week still provides a nice money making opportunity if you are willing to do a little more work. Selling via Merchant Fulfilled can still bring about some nice profits this week for items that buyers need to buy today. The best items to sell MF are those that both Amazon and FBA sellers have sold out of, are backordered, ones that are “Currently Unavailable” on their Amazon product page, and ones with a low rank that you don’t want to risk the extra time it takes to travel to a fulfillment center.

amazon_gift_card8. Keep sourcing for post-Christmas buyers. On the days after Christmas and well into January, many people have brand new Amazon gift cards burning a hole in their pockets. They head on over to Amazon and look for items to spend these gift cards on, and you want to be sure you have what they want waiting for them. Not only do gift card buyers show up, but so do the people who didn’t get what they wanted for Christmas. They know what they want, and since they didn’t get it, they decide to give themselves the gift they really want. Again, you want to be sure you have what they want when they go shopping for themselves.

list-of-updated-after-christmas-sales-20099. Buy Christmas-themed items at huge discounts. The week before, and right after Christmas, all of the Christmas related items go on sale at drastically reduced prices. This is a great time for you to stock up for your Amazon inventory. Like I’ve said before, seasonal items sell both in and out of season. I’ve seen Christmas ornaments sell in May, candy canes sell in March, and holiday DVDs sell in August. The stuff sells year round, but especially in July as people have “Christmas in July” parties. So, now might be a good time to buy holiday decor at 75% – 90% off. Again (I might be sounding like a broken record by now), check CamelCamelCamel and Keepa to see what prices and sales velocity to expect throughout the year.

10. Look towards the new year. Why am I talking about the new year in December? I honestly believe that if you wait until the first of January to start thinking about the new year, then you’re already behind in the game and are at a disadvantage. Imagine someone showing up for a marathon without doing any training beforehand. The runner would most likely quit before they even pass the 5 mile marker. Don’t be that guy. When January 1 arrives, we all begin a 365 day marathon, and I want to be sure you are ready for the journey. One great way is to grab my book, The Reseller’s Guide to a Year in FBA: A Month by Month Guide to a Profitable Amazon Business. This resource will help you know exactly what to do and what to avoid for each month of the year.

How about you? What strategies are you implementing to finish strong in 2016? I’d love to hear your ideas, so comment below.

 

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.

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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!

Seller Central Tip #1 – How to Check if “Returned” Items are Actually Returned to FBA

Amazon FBA Returns

It happens probably more often than you know. A customer requests a refund from Amazon but never actually returns the refunded item. Amazon is supposed to automatically reimburse you once 45 days has past, but sometimes Amazon “forgets.” Of course, Amazon doesn’t really forget, but for some reason, these reimbursements are not done 100% of the time. When this happens, it’s up to you to contact Amazon and remind them that they owe you a reimbursement.

When Amazon refunds your customer, Seller Support will send you an email with the subject line “Refund initiated for order.” I always move these emails to a dedicated folder in my email system. Amazon allows the customer 45 days to return the item to Amazon, so it’s a good idea to set up a reminder on your smartphone to check on this item in 45 days.

Ok, so saving these Return Notification emails from Amazon is a good idea, but what happens if you didn’t save that email? Well, you’re in luck because there is another way to see what items have been returned (and why).

1. Login to Seller Central and click on REPORTS at the top of the screen. 
2. Click on the FULFILLMENT link under REPORTS. 
3. Click on RETURNS from the left side column. 

Or you can do this to generate a Returns Report:

1. Login to Seller Central and hover the cursor over REPORTS at the top of the screen. 
2. Click on the PAYMENTS link under REPORTS. 
3. From there filter view by Refund, select the time frame, and click Update. 

Now that we know what items have been refunded to your customers, we need to find out if the item has indeed been returned. Here is how to do that (skip to step 7 if you have the Merchant SKU or ASIN from the above mentioned Returns Report):

1. Look at your Refund Notification email from Amazon and copy the order number. 
2. Login to Seller Central and hover the cursor over ORDERS at the top of the screen. 
3. Click on MANAGE ORDERS. 
4. Click on ADVANCED SEARCH
5. Paste the order number in the search bar and click SEARCH at the bottom of the page. 
6. On the next page, you’ll be able to see exactly which item was returned. From this page copy the item’s Merchant SKU or ASIN. 
7. Now, on the top of the Seller Central page, hover over INVENTORY and click on MANAGE FBA INVENTORY. 
8. Paste the Merchant SKU or AISN in the search bar and click Search. 
9. If you don’t see the item you’re looking for, click the radio button that states “Include Archived Items.”
10. From there you should see if your item is in your inventory (either as fulfillable or unfulfillable). 

Just because the item is not currently in your inventory doesn’t mean that it was never returned to an Amazon FBA warehouse. It could have been returned to your inventory and then sold soon after. So what do you do if you don’t know? Currently, Amazon does not notify you when (or even if) your item has been returned to an FBA warehouse. This last step is up to you.

11. Contact Seller Support and open up a case. 

seller-supportSimply ask them to look into this for you. After I enter in the specific item information, I usually say something like this: “The buyer of this item was given a refund, but failed to return the item to an FBA warehouse. It’s been over 45 days since the refund was given. Please reimburse me the original sales price. Thank you.” Most of the time I’ll get a quick response from Amazon stating that a reimbursement will be issued soon. Some of the time I’ll get a response from Amazon stating something like “this item was returned to Amazon on 5/12/13 and was added to your inventory.” When I see this notification, but my current inventory shows zero, then I know that the item was indeed returned, and then was sold soon after. I can even search all my orders to confirm that it was sold.

How do you handle returns? Any other tips you’d like to share with other FBA sellers?

For more Seller Central Tips, just click here.

How to Handle Amazon FBA Returns & Minimize Loss

Returns. They’re one of the worst parts of running a business, but they’re bound to happen. In fact, with increased Q4 sales, you’ll undoubtedly get more returns. Don’t let the increase in returns worry you. It’s only natural that with more sales come more returns.

When customers request to return a product they bought via FBA, Amazon gives them an immediate refund and a shipping label to return the item to the proper warehouse. Customers are on the honor system to indeed return the item they no longer want, so it’s up to you to check on the item after the customer is given a refund. To find out more about your returned items, log in to Seller Central and then click on Reports > Fulfillment > FBA Customer Returns.

Here are the main “dispositions” (Amazon term) in which a customer will return an item and how to best respond to each:

1. SELLABLE – Items that are returned as “sellable” will be automatically returned to your active inventory. Unless you’re worried that the item is actually not in sellable condition, there is nothing more you need to do once the item is indeed returned to Amazon. If you are worried that the item isn’t really in sellable condition, then open up a removal order to inspect the item yourself. Keep reading below to see what to do when a customer has been refunded but the item is not actually returned.

Amazon.com-worker-David-B-0012. DAMAGED – There are multiple reasons why an item would be returned as damaged. It’s possible that the item was damaged in a FBA warehouse prior to the shipping process to the customer. If the item was damaged in transit, then it’s the fault of Amazon (if the FBA worker did not pack the item well) or it’s deemed as your fault for not bubble wrapping or protecting the item before shipping the item to Amazon. It could also be your fault if you sent an already damaged item to Amazon. If it’s your fault, then there is no reimbursement, but if Amazon is to blame, then you are eligible for reimbursement.

3. CUSTOMER DAMAGED – Items that are returned as “customer damaged” will not be returned to your sellable inventory. “Customer damaged” does not mean that the customer bought the item, broke it, and then is attempting to return it. “Customer damaged” means that the customer opened the item, and it is no longer in new condition. Sometimes the customer says they opened the item, but they never really did and it’s still in new condition. The best plan of action for these items is to open up a removal order and get them sent back to you. From there you can see if the item is worth being resold as new, like new, or very good condition.

damaged-box4. CARRIER DAMAGED – If the item was damaged in transit, then it’s the fault of the shipping company (like UPS, FedEx, USPS, etc) for not taking good care of the package during the shipping process. These returns are ones you should be reimbursed for as it was not your fault the item was damaged.

5. DEFECTIVE – The item was returned to Amazon as “defective” and is either obviously damaged or the customer stated that it is faulty. When this happens, the FBA customer is refunded, but the item stays in your inventory as “unsellable.” The best plan of action here is to create a removal order and have the item returned to you for inspection. Some buyers return an item to Amazon and say it’s defective in order to get free return shipping, but the item is not actually defective. I’ve had many “defective” items returned to me only to find that it’s still in brand new condition, some never even opened. If the item can still be sold, then I send it in to FBA again.

Important: If a customer claims an item is defective but in reality it’s not, then it’s up to you to protect your account and fix this false claim. Too many claims of “defective” can hurt your seller metrics and put your account in danger of suspension. Follow these steps if a customer falsely claims an item is defective in order to get a free return.

return-refund-imageThe majority of customer returns are requested within 30 days of the original purchase. After a refund is granted, the customer has 45 days to return the item to Amazon. But what happens when a refund has been issued, but the item is never returned after 45 days? This is something that Amazon is supposed to monitor. Amazon should automatically reimburse you when an item is not returned, but this is not done 100% of the time. For some reason, some incomplete returns are missed. When this happens, you’ll need to be proactive and request a reimbursement. Just open up a new case with Seller Support and let them know that a refunded item was never returned. Amazon will investigate and eventually reimburse you. It’s your money, so be sure you get it.

Remember, the occasional return is just part of business and is nothing to worry about. Don’t ignore your unsellable returned items as they will just sit in an FBA warehouse and continue to rack up monthly storage fees. Take action and do what you can to get those items to become sellable or, at least, to make sure you get reimbursed for items that were never actually returned.

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A few years ago, I sold a brand new teal colored Gameboy for about $350. A few weeks later I was notified that the item was refunded. I set up a reminder on my smart phone for 45 days later to check on the status of the return. When I found out that the item was never returned, I opened up a case with Amazon and was quickly reimbursed the full sales price. Double checking your returned items is worth your time.

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year-in-fba-2017Make 2017 your Best Amazon Sales Year Ever! 

Imagine knowing exactly what to expect in your Amazon FBA business every month of the year.

Imagine what it would feel like knowing you were not missing out on any of the opportunities that will come your way in 2017.

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Only a few days left until the permanent price increase of The Reseller’s Guide to a Year in FBA: A Month by Month Guide to a Profitable Amazon Business. The package includes a 200-page ebook, monthly live webinars, and 4 special bonuses.

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So what about you? Are you experiencing more returns than normal? Do you have a story about a returned item that you were able to recoup your losses on? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.