How have you been handling all the recent changes and rumors of changes in Amazon FBA selling?
That’s not a rhetorical question. I really want to know. How have you been handling all the news about FBA changes? Have you been freaking out? Have you been paralyzed with uncertainty? Have you kept doing business as usual? Have you taken it all in stride? I want to take a minute to check in with the Full-Time FBA community and see how you are faring in the face of so many questions about the future of third party sellers on Amazon.
A couple of things have happened in the past several days to shake up the FBA community. One thing (Amazon no longer accepting retail receipts as proof of authenticity if you have a claim by a customer that your product is counterfeit) isn’t really new news. This trend towards requiring manufacturer or wholesale invoices has been going on for a while, but an article by Cynthia Stine (the link no longer available) lent urgency to the situation and caused many folks to consider abandoning retail arbitrage and online arbitrage all together. I admire Cynthia Stine greatly, and while I don’t completely agree with everything in her article, I highly recommend reading her advice/opinions and reflecting on your business in its light.
The other thing that has shaken up the FBA world is a new round of brand restrictions by Amazon. Many popular and profitable brands for third party sellers (including Adidas, Nike, and LEGO, just to name a few) were suddenly restricted without warning, leaving sellers to scramble to know how to deal with inventory already at the FBA warehouses, not to mention how to prepare for the upcoming Q4 season.
In light of these changes, I want to share my opinions and advice for how to handle the ever-evolving situation for FBA sellers. Most of what I have to say here isn’t new; in fact, I have a previous blog post (read it here) that is very similar in tone. Here’s what I recommend for handling these (and so many other!) changes:
- Always go to the source. Any time you see an article online, a blog post, a Facebook post (and the accompanying comments), or anything else with Amazon FBA “news,” be sure you don’t just take it at face value without checking out the facts for yourself. Always go to the source, and in this case the source is the Amazon guidelines. If you can’t find the answer to your question within the Amazon guidelines or if you find conflicting information, open a ticket with Amazon Seller Central and see if you can get some answers that way. When you do get an answer through a Seller Central help ticket, be sure you save the email response to refer to later, especially if you run into problems related to your account’s performance.
- Don’t dwell in the negativity. It can be so easy to get sucked into the negativity online when difficult situations arise in the FBA selling world, especially on Facebook. You could easily spend (waste?) hours reading and participating in the comments on Facebook posts about how fill-in-the-blank change is going to ruin our existence as third party sellers on Amazon. Don’t fall victim to that temptation! We have to find a balance between being informed about what’s going on and not dwelling in the negativity to the point that it affects our ability to work on our business.
- Don’t worry about things out of your control. Worrying about your situation does not change the situation. I love the verse in the Bible that says, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27). The answer, of course, is no – in fact, numerous studies have shown that worrying too much can actually take hours away from your life! Certain aspects of doing business through Amazon FBA are simply out of our control, and there is absolutely no benefit to worrying about them to the point of losing sleep or not being able to focus on our work during the day.
- Adjust your business as needed. There are certain aspects of doing business that are firmly in our control, and those are the areas where we should focus in times of change. We can take the information we get from various sources (most importantly, from Amazon), and we can make any necessary changes to adapt our business and keep finding profits and success. Sometimes we only need to make small adjustments, while other times we need to pivot and go in a completely new direction with our business.
This last point about adjusting your business as needed is where I want to focus the rest of this blog post. How do you go about deciding where and how to make adjustments to your FBA business – or even whether you should make adjustments at all? Here are a few tips for making those decisions:
- Assess your risk. Another great article to come out in the past week can be found on Ryan Grant’s blog. In his blog post, Ryan gives an excellent summary of how to assess your risk in your particular FBA business model and how to determine your level of risk tolerance. Certain sellers (those who have a history of counterfeit claims, for example) are more at risk than others if Amazon won’t accept retail receipts as proof of origin, and certain sellers can tolerate more risk than others. Spend some time evaluating where you stand.
- Understand business is risky by nature. There is no risk-free business out there, whether you are talking about business in general or Amazon FBA in particular. If you’re going to succeed at doing business, you need to understand the nature of risk and accept it as a part of the process.
- Look at the probability of certain outcomes. How likely is it for you in your situation to encounter certain circumstances? In our own personal case, we are asking ourselves what is the likelihood that someone would make an inauthentic claim about our inventory? Are the categories we sell in likely to see inauthentic claims? How likely are the brands we sell to become restricted? How deep in inventory are we in those brands that are most likely to become restricted?
- Gain some perspective. Perspective can be a game changer as far as your business mindset is concerned. Lately here in Texas we’ve had a lot of thunderstorms. I often hear thunder from my office and look out the window to see ominous clouds and pouring rain. But that’s just the view from my office. From plenty of other places in the world, the view is sunny and bright. The same is true about our FBA business: Don’t settle into a gloomy, cloudy, negative view, but regain perspective about all the areas that are going right in FBA selling. Spend some time talking with others in the FBA community (like in our Full-Time FBA Facebook group) about positive steps you can take to advance your business.
- Identify areas where you can make practical changes to your business. Do you need to focus less on retail arbitrage and focus more on finding wholesale sources? Then do that. Is abandoning retail arbitrage the answer across the board for everyone in FBA? Probably not. Is it the answer for your business? I don’t know; only you can evaluate your situation and come to that determination. But spend some time evaluating your own business and identifying how you can take practical steps to make any necessary changes, and see how much you can accomplish once those changes are made.
- Realize there are no guarantees. There is no 100% fool-proof way to protect yourself and your business against every possible eventuality. Amazon is going to continue to change the way things work for third party sellers. New categories and brands might become restricted at any moment, and new difficulties can arise in the process of sending in shipments to FBA warehouses. But there are always adjustments you can make to adapt to the new regulations and processes. There are always ways to adjust your business and continue to find profits, on Amazon and elsewhere (check out our recent post with the top reasons why you should keep an active eBay account).
Like I said at the beginning of this post, I truly want to know how you’re doing with all of the news and the changes. Please let us hear from you in the comments.
It is my honest desire that you are able to succeed if you have the goal of earning a full-time income through Amazon FBA – or if you have the goal of earning a partial income, putting away a vacation fund, or paying down debt. No matter where you are in your FBA journey and no matter where you intend to go, I hope you are able to focus on the helpful aspects of recent changes in Amazon selling and make the most of the abundant opportunities that are out there.
Eliezer Miller says
what is troubleing me is the new charge of 10 to 15 cents per unit if you don’t supply exact box content when shipping to FBA. As I ship directly from a distributor it is practiclly impossible to know how they will pack the boxes and what the dimentions and waight will be.
Do you have any tips for people like me?
If you ship directly from the distributor, then you’ll need to work that into your cost/profit margins. Hopefully .10 – .15 cents per item won’t hurt your margins.
Bob Willey says
I like a lot of what you have said here.
Rational, gradual change and shifts in your business model.
Look at YOUR business, not others, what has affected YOU.
Like in my business, I have sold 6-8 pairs of Adidas shoes this weekend alone, has the restriction affected me? No, not yet, will it? Who Knows, but I am selling the heck out of them for now.
Will I buy large qty of them? No, I will chill some, if I find a great deal, I might still buy more Adidas, but not as many as before, and I am going to wait for the dust to settle in the upcoming months (not hours, or even days), and gradually steadily keep moving forward while monitoring CHANGE.
I have been selling on Amazon for over 12 years now, and doing FBA since 2008 (started the FBAForum group on Yahoo Aug 1st, 2008) and even helped Chris Green get started. And the one CONSTANT thru this whole timeframe was “Change”.
You have to be able to adapt, don’t over-react,
don’t listen to all the naysayers, many are TROLLS who push the negative content in hopes of scaring a bunch of sellers to shut down their business,k hoping it is gives them less competition. Sadly this has been going on as long as I have been selling, mostly on the AZ Seller Forums, but now is all over Facebook.
So, spend less time on Facebook, listen to sane rational people like Stephen Smotherman and maybe my rants, and keep growing your business.
4th Quarter (Q4) is just around the corner, and there is a lot of money to be made by all of us, if we do not overreact. Let’s make some money together.
Don’t buy every course/training out there, you don’t need them.
It is the “Shiny Object Syndrome”. You have this, you can do it,
just REFLECT on your own business, not everyone else’s.
And let’s get back to having some fun!!
Well said, Bob!
I’m having trouble locating the information “from the horse’s mouth,” per say. When I enter a search of “brand restrictions” into Amazon’s guidelines page, I get nothing that mentions specific brands. I also have not received notifications directly from AZ about anything I am selling, like some folks have mentioned on forums, being told to remove inventory “or else.” I have a few pairs of Nike baseball cleats for sale, and I heard rumors about Disney items also being restricted, and I have quite a bit of merchandise and clothing with that brand.
It would be nice to be able to read through a summarized list, with direct actions that need to be taken. I am unfamiliar with selling on Ebay, but have a long term buyers account in good standing, and if I need to learn that system to sell some of the newly restricted stuff from Amazon, I will. The frustrating thing to me, is that FBA is one of the major factors that helps me balance my home & family responsibilities with running a business, as I have a large family, and homeschool. Running to the PO every time something is ordered is not something I can do consistently, and balance the rest of my life very well.
I am willing to comply with Amazon’s new restrictions, and am not panicking, but would like to know just what those restrictions are, exactly, and what action is required to set things straight. This will definitely take some “getting used to,” in arbitrage, but if there’s a specific list to avoid, and/or it shows up on the scanning app as restricted, or when you try to list it, I can live with that, just need to know what those things are!
You’re right, that can be very frustrating. Amazon doesn’t have a “list” of restricted items/brands, but thety will tell you one by one if you use the Amazon seller app if the item you’re looking at is restricted for you personally to sell. If you’re sourcing, and come across an item you think might be restricted, be sure to cross check it with the Amazon seller app. There are MANY different lists online that try to list out ALL of the restricted brand, but they can never be perfect…. as sometimes a brand might be restricted on some ASINs, but not other ASINs for that brand… and some sellers might be approved for a brand or category, while other sellers might not be. The best course of action is to scan the item using the Amazon seller app to see if it’s restricted FOR YOU or not. Personally, I only check the items that I think MIGHT be restricted, not everything. I wish you all the best!
Bob Willey says
Since it has not shown up in your account yet, continue to move forward. Maybe start be more shy about picking up the brands you are concerned about, and scan any concerned items in AZ Seller APP to see if it shows up as Restricted for YOU…
Don’t listen to others, watch YOUR account, and your stranded inventory and/or Suppressed inventory and look for issues in your inventory.
Be more cautious, but keep moving forward.
The Sky is NOT Falling.
There is no official list like you are asking for, as it is evolving as we speak, and Amazon is not great with Communication (never has been).
And from my personal experience, much of what is spoken by Amazon reps at Conferences might never come to fruition. Most of what they say, generally is the direction they want to go, not clear policy statements.
Yes, confusing, that has always been Amazon.
Beverly Long says
This is a great article — practical & wise. I totally agree with Bob. I am new to selling on Amazon (since April). I have found 5 people that are experienced with this business that I listen to because they always have great input & are really positive in the way they approach this crazy business, & Stephen, you are at the top of that list. I started out spending time on the FB groups trying to learn as much as possible & quickly found the people I need to listen to. Thank you so much Stephen, for your generosity, wisdom & positive outlook. It really helps me to stay true. Your faith is, I know, a huge part of that.
I’m happy this blog and my free videos are seen as helpful. That’s my goal!
Thanks Bob, and Stephen.
I would like to know where the information on specific brand restrictions, like Nike, is really coming from, though, since I can’t find it in the Amazon guidelines, which Stephen mentioned in the post.
I think there will still be plenty of inventory to source, at least for a while, even if some brand restrictions are imposed, but obviously the smaller a percentage of my overall inventory that is potentially suppressed or restricted, the better, because I wouldn’t have to find an alternate platform, or worse, liquidate it. I would especially like to know if Disney is going to be a problem, since that is such a broad brand, and obviously popular during the holiday season.
When I saw there was a post from Stephen in my email today, I knew it was going to reliably hold the message “don’t panic, you will be able to navigate these changes.” This encouraging and practical approach is always greatly appreciated, whether you are offering “reactive” advice like this post, or “proactive” counsel on making the most of your business. Hope I get to shake your hand at CESIV, I’d like to say thanks in person! Will anyone else on today’s comments be there? (I know that’s slightly off topic, but related in my mind, since the mentality of flexibility and positivity is also a huge component of advice from that platform!)
Jim Hess says
I like your post and know that some really needed to read it. For me I just go about my business and will adapt if needed. I do not sell a lot of “Brand Names” so that is not a concern. One thing that has happened to me deals in VHS tapes. I have sold a lot of them and have a lot in inventory but now I get that “Restricted” on them and when I want to replenish one that has sold the say I cannot. I also still list some but on just a few (25) they say I can’t. I have wrote a few times and my last message has not been answered since Friday. I thought I would see how long they would take because they do not have a good answer. I will be writing today see why the delay. I know a lot of you do not sell these so it does not matter but I have made out good selling them. Please let me know you thoughts.
PS I am not worrying about this issue, just wanted an answer. Have a great day! Jim
Sometimes Amazon doesn’t want any more of certain ASINs to be sent to FBA warehouses because they already have plenty enough from all the other sellers that Amazon thinks there are more than enough to meet the demand. This is especially true of BHS tapes, and some really high ranked books.
Todd Wallace says
Got to love a man who quotes the Bible in a business article.
Like others have mentioned, the frustrating part of the changes is Amazon’s lack of communication regarding restricted brands. Rather than sending me a notice that a brand became restricted, I received notices that “one or more of my items doesn’t match the product listed and my condition comments on the listing are not permitted under Amazon’s TOS” (even though my listing didn’t contain any condition comments). It has taken me 3 weeks to find out that the above wasn’t the case AT ALL, and it was just the brand now being restricted. For those needing a list of restricted brands, there are a lot out there and right now, it appears none are completely updated as brands are being restricted daily.
Amazon has had a long track history of bad communication skills… but they do seem to be trying. It can be very confusing and hard to understand at times, and I know that’s frustrating. That’s great that you were able to get to the bottom of what they were trying to communicate as other sellers give up and move on.
Great post Stephen! I have been seeing and reading some of the buzz to just stay up to date. I checked my own inventory for possible problems, didn’t find any at this time, and am just moving forward. I tend to sell niche brands and books.
It can be a huge time waster as you said to get caught up in “what might happen.” Staying focused and adjusting is the key and I am using the Amazon Seller App.
By the way, love your videos! 🙂
Great article. I have just recently started selling on Amazon. I have been closely following their rules. Obviously I would like to have the full-time income, and I wouldn’t want to break their rules. It seems there are lots of new rules on Amazon lately. Is it because too many new sellers lately?
Tony, I think that many of the guidelines that have be added recently are in response to the flood of counterfeiters who are trying to sell on Amazon. Amazon is trying to do what they can to protect their customers and give them the best buying experience.
Stephen, thanks for your reply. As a customer, I noticed there are lots of counterfeiters on amazon since last year. It would be great for Amazon to have tough rules.
However, what if Amazon suspense a buyer by mistake?
I agree with what you said Stephen…as for Cynthia Stine I used to really enjoy her blogs and books but since she got into suspension prevention…she has become a scare monger. I respect her and all but her blogs really can make someone quit FBA…Her services are necessary if you get suspeneded and do not know what to do…but…I feel she keeps gloom and dooming FBA. I loved her book when she first came out she seemed so positive and made fBA sound doable… I am with you that we should do our own research and contact seller central and just ask them.
It seems like too many people want to make money teaching FBA and Scaring people into their services. This is wrong.
While change is scary at times and can be a pain…change can be good also ..
We just have to keepand open mind and run through the chnges a few times and suddenly it is no big whoop.
As for amazon their lack of information on restricted brands is wrong they should keep a running list we can download..I constantly search for updates on restricted brands and keep the lists in my phone…I check tgem before i go scouting and have them on hand before I buy a new brand…just makes my life easier..
Learning ebay may be my new business lesson because passing up some great deals because amazon restricts the items…is throwing money out..
I LOVE FBA…it is a great idea…but it is not the only idea…as we learned this we can learn others….
I honestly believe that Cynthia Stine is not trying to scare people into her service… because she’s warning people about the ways they can be suspended… and how hard it might be to get reinstated if we don’t have quality proof of where we get our inventory from. If Cynthia wanted to get more business, then she’d be keeping this information to herself. I think that her intensions are pure, but her perspective could possibly be a little clouded since suspended accounts are what she is surrounded by every day. As for Amazon, yes, it would be great if they kept a list of brands that are restricted, but until they do, we’ll just need to check the Amazon seller app to see if we’re approved. It’s not the best way, but it seems to be the only way right now. Adjust your business model as needed and you’ll be ok.
Stephen, thank you for this article. I have one thing to say…if you are not on eBay, get your account up and running. NOW.
I agree… and if you have an old eBay account… resurrect it. I use my ebay account often to sell off the items I’m now restricted on Amazon to sell.
Rob P says
New to this. Just starting out. So, don’t really know what to think about this going forward. Seems like there are a lot of name brands now restricted. I plan to follow the rules and keep an level head. But I also want to try to avoid/mitigate any costly issues going forward. Seems like you never really know when a certain brand or product will become restricted. So, potentially you could have a good amount of products sitting in the Amazon warehouse and then be restricted from selling them. What are the options? Have them shipped back and try to sell them somewhere else. Have Amazon scrap them? Not great options. I think I just saw somewhere that Amazon was starting a program to help sellers liquidate merchandise sitting in the Amazon warehouse? Is that true? Of course it would probably be a a very low rate such as 10 cents on the dollar? I thought I read that they would find a liquidator to purchase the merchandise? Is that true? And if so, will it be an Amazon company? Doesn’t Amazon own a lot of other companies including wholesalers/liquidators? I thought I read that. Is that true? So if Amazon restricts a large amount of brands and prohibit sellers from selling them on Amazon, then potentially there would be a lot of products sitting in Amazon warehouses that cannot be sold, at which point …. could/would an Amazon company offer to purchase the products at pennies on the dollar? If so, it would seem that restricting products could become very profitable for Amazon, in which case I would think that there could be a lot more product restrictions to come.
That’s a very nice spiritual support and encouragement. However, I don’t see any practical advice on how to go around that boundary. There has to be a solution.
Thanks for always providing such helpful content! While I’m certainly maintaining my positivity, the sudden imposition of these restrictions is definitely a big setback for me.
I just became an Amazon seller in January 2017. I knew nothing about it, FBA, arbitrage, wholesale, or anything. I spent about 2.5 months researching, building up my business plan, and preparing to get started!
I finally pulled the trigger and bought my first items at the end of March. Boxed them, labeled them, and shipped them to FBA in early April. I sold all 40 of them in 48 hours! In the end, I didn’t make any real profit (because of incorrect assumptions in my profitability calculations), but I was hooked!
Coming to find that a large part of what I just spent 2 months learning is now restricted is certainly a letdown, and I’m going to have to go back and learn a lot more now. That’s fine and all, but I wish there was a warning! It’s hard not having an income, which will only be delayed even further while I re-work my business plan.
Best of luck to you all in managing these new requirements!