The coronavirus outbreak is forcing Amazon to prioritize customer orders for household goods and medical supplies over non-essential items.
On Tuesday, Amazon said its warehouses will focus on stocking household staples such as groceries, baby products, and health items, due to the flood of online shopping orders. But to free up the warehouse space, Amazon will temporarily block third-party sellers from sending their non-essential goods to the company’s fulfillment centers.
“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 ship these products to customers,” Amazon said in a message to sellers.
“For products other than these, we have temporarily disabled shipment creation. We are taking a similar approach with retail vendors,” the company added. The new policy goes into effect today in the US and European markets, and will last until April 5, until further notice.
The news is good for consumers who are struggling to buy groceries, cleaning items, and medical supplies from Amazon in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Starting this past weekend, orders on Amazon have been facing shipment delays and disruptions from the spike in online shopping. You can now expect an Amazon Prime order to take four days instead of the normal one- or two-day shipping time. Meanwhile, items such as hand sanitizer, masks, disinfectant wipes, and even toilet paper, have been sold out on the website.
However, the new policy is bad for independent merchants, who sell goods other than household staples and health-related supplies. Many of these merchants rely on Amazon warehouses to receive, store, and send out their goods to customers. As The Wall Street Journal points out, these sellers will now have to make their own arrangements when it comes to storing and shipping goods that Amazon is temporarily refusing to take.
A few merchants in Amazon’s official online forum are already worried. “They just damaged the businesses of hundreds of thousands of sellers,” one of them claimed.
However, others say the ongoing outbreak, which has infected more than 5,100 people in the US, warrants Amazon conducting triage on its own shipping network.
“This virus is not a joke and am sure Amazon didn’t take the decision to suspend FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) shipments, just because they felt like it,” one merchant posted.
The change also applies to big branded vendors. So it’s possible Amazon’s own supplies of laptops, PC parts, and video games could thin out, depending on the supply and demand. However, the new policy will only last for three weeks, and shipments already inbound to the company’s fulfillment centers will be accepted. Third-party vendors on Amazon can also choose to ship directly to consumers as well.
To help address the demand in online shopping, Amazon on Monday announced it would hire 100,000 new workers at the company’s fulfillment centers in the US.
In the meantime, Amazon is telling merchants they can continue to sell whatever supplies they have left in the company’s warehouses. “We understand this is a change to your business, and we did not take this decision lightly. We are working around the clock to increase capacity,” the company added in today’s announcement.