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

Knowing 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 posts in our series on Selling Shoes through Amazon FBA:

Why We Added Shoes to Our Sourcing Strategy
Beginner Lessons for Selling Shoes on Amazon
Shoe Buying Decisions
Should You Sell Shoes on Amazon?

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 prepping shoes.

If you’re ready to step up your game with selling shoes on Amazon, check out our course, The Reseller’s Guide to Selling Shoes: Kick up Your Profits with New Shoes via Amazon FBA. It’s a combination ebook (100+ pages) and video course (over 4.5 hours of no-fluff content) that will help you avoid all the mistakes we made and get your shoe selling off on the right foot.

28 responses to “Selling Shoes through Amazon FBA: Prepping and Processing (Plus Returns)

  1. Thanks for the series! I’ve never used stretch wrap; so after you wrap it around the shoe box, that’s it? You send it in like that? I’d want to put it in a poly bag in case the stretch wrap comes off and the box comes apart, or just b/c of potential dust and dirt at the warehouse. But you have’t had issues with that?

    • Rebecca Smotherman Rebecca Smotherman

      If you put the stretch wrap around 2-3 times and tighten it into a narrow band, it would be almost impossible for it to just come off. It would have to be intentionally unwrapped or cut off. We’ve never had a problem with it, and this is the method we’ve been using for over a year.

  2. Is there a simple way to tell if a returned pair of shoes (or other items, for that matter) has been evaluated by Amazon, and determined whether it’s still salable? I seem to discover that items reached that category when I get a notice later that it sold, and I look at my spreadsheet – “Hmm, I had two size 13 snow boots, but one was returned, and now I have a sale, must have been in salable condition.” So I enter it into my spreadsheet.

    Would be nice to know if something was not ready to re-sell on Amazon, so I’d know to pull it from inventory, if needed. Or does that just show up in unfulfillable inventory, and I assume it’s usable unless I hear otherwise? This seems like a loose system, if someone creates a return order, but then forgets or neglects to actually send in the item.

    • Rebecca Smotherman Rebecca Smotherman

      If the shoe is returned and in sellable condition (as determined by a worker at the FBA warehouse), it will be put back in your fulfillable inventory. If it is not in sellable condition (typically, if the shoe is no longer in new condition or if the box has been damaged/destroyed), they will put it in your unfulfillable inventory and mark it as “customer damaged.” Even if it is marked “customer damaged,” it might still be sellable; no way to know without having it returned to you for inspection.

  3. Do you ever replace boxes? My shoe returns have consistently been unworn, but the boxes destroyed in shipping. I can’t decide how to handle them. Request reimbursement for products damaged in shipping?

    • Rebecca Smotherman Rebecca Smotherman

      If the box is damaged in shipping, I would request reimbursement. Take photos of the damaged box with the AZ packing slip to attach to your request.

      • You can only ask for reimbursement if the item is returned as defective right? If it is customer damaged, you can only ask for reimbursement if there was a missing part of an item right? We have received damaged boxes of various items that would have been perfectly sellable as new except the customer or Amazon shipped them without a protective outer box. So the shipping label on the box ruined the box. Many times the shipping label was removed tearing up the box. This in turn has the warehouse mark the item as customer damaged. When we receive this kind of item, can we still ask for a reimbursement?

  4. A question was asked previously if you use the co mingle setting when selling shoes?

    • Rebecca Smotherman Rebecca Smotherman

      We do not co-mingle any of our inventory in any category. Any benefits of saved time for not putting on a sticker are far outweighed by the risk to the metrics on our selling account if another seller’s counterfeit or used items are sent out on our order.

  5. Hey all,
    As usual, a great post and series. Quick question for you. As you’ve gained experience, how many pairs of shoes do you purchase/sell a month? Since it takes a little longer to sell, was wondering.

    Also, when looking at purchasing, do you take into consideration the potential ~$5.00 return processing fee from Amazon?

    Thanks!!
    Jim

    • Rebecca Smotherman Rebecca Smotherman

      Hi Jim,
      Glad you’re finding the series to be helpful!

      We understand that people are sometimes curious about our sales numbers, but we choose not to share dollar amounts or unit amounts because the results for every business are different. We make a full-time income for our family of 6 solely from our FBA business. Last month 50% of our revenue came from the shoe category. It really comes down to how fast or long it takes for shoes to sell and your ROI, and that will be very different for every person and every shoe. It’s not always about quantity, but the quality of the purchasing decision.

      With shoes we always make sure that we’re getting a high enough ROI to cover potential fees, including returns and storage fees. Our ROI parameters for shoes are closer to 100% than our ROI parameters for fast turning toys, which might go as low as 30% if we can get the sales fast enough.

      Hope that helps!

  6. What facebook groups do you recommend that talk about selling and sourcing shoes for selling on amazon?

    • Rebecca Smotherman Rebecca Smotherman

      I really love Your Sourced Inventory. They have a free FB group and a paid one. I also find the Shoe Sourcing Online group to be helpful, and it’s free. Those groups are geared toward OA, but many of the principles discussed in them can be applied to selling shoes on AZ no matter how you’ve sourced them.

  7. We use rubberbands to secure the lids on the shoebox and it has worked great. Fast and no complaints.

    • Rebecca Smotherman Rebecca Smotherman

      We prefer to use stretch wrap because rubber bands can break over time, especially in non-climate-controlled warehouses.

  8. I Bought shoes from Bon-ton. Shoes were purchased new and look new, but they used the shoe boxes as shipping boxes, which was a poor thing to do. You mentioned selling damaged boxes with new shoes on Ebay or another avenue but Amazon does allow some shoe ASINs to be sold as used, at least I’m approved to sell these shoes as used. In this example I might consider selling new shoes as like new or very good if the box is beat up. Have you or would you sell a similar item on Amazon as used instead of using other platforms? Thanks for your input.

  9. Hi Rebecca,
    If you can, could you check an ASIN on your end via “add a product”. It is B0167SNBS6. These are shoes I’m allowed to sell used. Wondering if I have some special approval that allows me to sell used shoes, LOL, or if you also can see the ability to sell these used. I spoke to an Amazon rep yesterday who also expressed surprise that shoes could be sold used, but told me I am absolutely approved to do that, at least for all the shoes I’ve looked up so far. Just curious how the “add a product” for that ASIN looks on your end. Thanks!
    Kent

    • Rebecca Smotherman Rebecca Smotherman

      I checked that ASIN, and I’m approved for New but not Used. Looks like you could sell your shoes with damaged boxes on Amazon — that’s a big plus!

  10. That’s so odd but I’m not going to complain. I had specifically asked the rep if I could sell new shoes as like new without the original box. She said she would have to check, then wrote me back and said I have approval to do that, use a generic box and call it like new as long as the shoes are in like new or new condition. Maybe you could write or call them and ask if they would approve you to list shoes as “used” or what it would require. Apparently the process exists although when I applied I don’t recall doing anything special on-line to get approved for shoes, particularly the used part.

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  12. Hi
    ive been selling on amazon and ebay for a couple years now and been fulfilling orders from home.
    im looking to start FBA, has anyone got any advice on where to start.
    – Can i put a rubber band round my shoes boxes, then put multiple shoe boxes in a box. e.g. 6 shoe boxes in one bigger box which has mixed SKUs.
    – what do i do if i get an ebay order for a product which is FBA?

  13. I have read mixed reviews about packaging shoes.

    If I find new shoes at a store like TJ Maxx but they don’t come in the manufacturer’s box can I ship them to Amazon FBA in a poly bag w/ a suffocation warning? Many on the Amazon Seller Central Blog have told others they absolutely will be suspended if they don’t use the original manufacturer’s box. I don’t want that. And if I can ship in only a poly bag, should I bubble wrap and where do I put my sticker?

    Thank you guys in advance. Best advice out there on shoes right now!

    • Rebecca Smotherman Rebecca Smotherman

      Hi Ash,
      It all depends on the type of shoe. If it’s a high-end shoe, I wouldn’t poly bag it or even send in a plain brown shoebox. Customers of high-end shoes would be very disappointed not to receive the original shoebox. For lower-end shoes or kids’ shoes, a poly bag or a plain brown shoebox can work. I’ve sent in crocs, slippers, kids’ sandals in poly bags, no bubble wrap, with the suffocation warning and my seller label on the outside of the poly bag.

  14. Thanks Rebecca and Stephen on the very informative content on selling shoes.

    Important question for me is how much has your average net income been from shoes once you cracked the code?

    Thanks
    Panda

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