Amazon is reprioritizing its inventory to meet customer demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
The e-commerce giant informed sellers and vendors that it will not accept inbound shipments of non-essential items to its warehouses until April 5. The company hopes the decision will help it to make room for “high-demand” products like household staples, cleaning products, and medical supplies. Orders for these types of items have surged as people attempt to protect themselves from infection and prepare for self-quarantine in the days ahead.
“We are seeing increased online shopping, and as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock. With this in mind, we are temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so that we can more quickly receive, restock, and deliver these products to customers,” Amazon informed sellers. “For products other than these, we have temporarily disabled shipment creation. We are taking a similar approach with retail vendors.”
The new policy, which went into effect March 16, prioritizes products that fall into several categories including baby care, health and household, beauty and personal care, grocery, industrial and scientific, and pet supplies. Sellers in the U.S. and European Union who make use of Fulfillment by Amazon, a service that enables them to use the company’s storage and delivery network, are predominantly affected. The policy does not apply to merchant-fulfilled channels, or to inventory already in the warehouses or in-transit to warehouses. Sellers and vendors with stock in Amazon’s warehouses will be able to ship and sell those products, but cannot re-up their inventory.
As news of the policy update spread, sellers fretted on Reddit and Facebook over the possible implications of Amazon’s move on their businesses. Amazon, for its part, acknowledged the strain this could place on sellers who rely on its platform, writing on Amazon Seller Central that the company “did not take this decision lightly.”
This decision is just the latest move by Amazon to accommodate the extraordinary disruptions caused by the outbreak of coronavirus. On Tuesday, the e-commerce giant announced it would add 100,000 full- and part-time roles in its fulfillment centers and delivery network to deal with increased demand on its site. Like in brick-and-mortar grocery stores and convenience stores across the country, Amazon’s online shelves have been wiped clean by panicked shoppers stocking up on household and pantry essentials as the possibility of being confined mostly to homes and apartments to stem the spread of COVID-19 becomes a reality for many Americans.