This post is by Lauren Carter, digital media manager at ProfitSourcery. Her experience selling on the Amazon marketplace helped guide the development of ProfitSourcery, a retail arbitrage sourcing site for Amazon sellers. ProfitSourcery finds products you can buy from online retailers and sell on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk for a profit after Amazon’s fees.
There are millions of products available from the Amazon marketplace, many of which you can sell as soon as you sign up for your Amazon seller account. But for some products you will find various restrictions in place.
These restrictions allow Amazon to control who can sell those products, and ensure customers are getting the very best experience from the site. Amazon wants to do as much as possible to prevent the sale of counterfeit or poor quality goods, as well as ensure only the very best sellers are able to sell certain products.
Some of these restrictions can be overcome quite easily whilst others will be very difficult to get around, and some are not flexible at all. We’ll discuss the different types of restrictions and what you can do if you wish to sell a restricted product.
There are many product categories you can sell under on the Amazon marketplace. Some sellers choose to specialize in just one or two but many will spread their inventory across a range of categories. You’re probably aware that some of these categories are restricted or “gated”. This simply means that you need to ask Amazon for permission to sell products which fall into that category.
Many sellers will shy away from these categories thinking they need to be a very experienced seller to gain access but in reality the application process is generally very simple, and as long as you follow Amazon’s rules you should have no trouble getting permission.
In the ProfitSourcery dashboard, products in restricted categories are highlighted so that our customers know whether they need to apply for permission from Amazon before they can sell them.
Many of the restricted categories are gated because the products are particularly vulnerable to counterfeiting, and Amazon wants to protect its customers and reputation. As long as you can prove that you are buying products from a legitimate source, and you are able to follow Amazon’s guidelines, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to unlock these potentially money-making categories.
To start the process you need to contact Seller Support, and can do this through the link at the bottom of any page in Seller Central. Then select “Products and inventory”, “Issue with listing products” and then tick the box for “Trouble/difficulty adding or viewing a product”. You will then see a link lower down to apply to restricted categories.
Build up a good reputation
Firstly you need to be a pro seller, meaning you pay the monthly subscription fee to use the Amazon marketplace. Application is not available for “Individual” (US) or “Basic” (UK) sellers.
Secondly, if you have no experience selling through any platform you will struggle to complete the application as Amazon will want to see some of your sales history to show you are trustworthy. If you have been selling on Amazon for a few months with good sales history and positive customer metrics you should be fine, and if you are selling through FBA then you shouldn’t need to wait long at all.
As an example, say you run a business selling beauty products through your own website, but want to start listing your products on Amazon. You will need to show Amazon that you have had success selling these products through your own site.
But if you have no online sales experience at all, it would be best to start selling some products in an open category to build up your customer metrics and get some positive feedback under your belt. The quickest and easiest way to do this is through FBA – that way you will not need to put in so much work, and your metrics are guaranteed to be great as long as you are selling good quality products.
Have stock ready
If you want permission to sell in a restricted category you need to have stock ready to go for that category. Amazon won’t grant permission to somebody who is thinking about selling in a category some time down the line, but doesn’t have a source of stock yet. They need to know that you are ready with stock from a genuine supplier.
You don’t need to buy huge quantities if you are unsure of being successful, but you need to have something ready to list. If you are concerned, speak with your supplier, explain the situation and make sure you understand their refund policies. Even better, have a look at the prices for your products on eBay. If you cannot get permission from Amazon (although this is unlikely) you can always sell your goods elsewhere.
The products you have when you first apply don’t need to be from the supplier you intend to use long-term. As long as they are a reputable supplier you should be fine.
Understand the requirements for the category
Just because you have successfully applied for one restricted category doesn’t mean another category will be just as easy. The requirements for getting approval in each category differ and Amazon can change these requirements at any time.
For each category you can click through to see the requirements before you begin your application. If you ensure you have everything listed in the requirements page before you start the application process you should have no problems. (Note: The screenshot below is taken from Amazon.com; the process is the same for other Amazon marketplaces although the categories differ.)
When you begin the application process you only have two days between each step to submit the requested information before your application is cancelled. If you make sure you have everything you need before you start, the process will run a lot more smoothly. If you are at all unsure about any of the requirements contact Seller Support first to ask for clarification.
For some categories you are required to submit up to five product images to Amazon before you can gain approval. These images can be of any products within the category but they must meet Amazon’s image guidelines. All images must have at least 1,280 pixels on the longest side, but 2,560 pixels or higher is preferred.
Images should show the actual product, not an illustration, and should not show any accessories or props which are not included. Your product should take up 85% or more of the image space. Borders, logos and watermarks are not allowed, and the background needs to be pure white. The images can be .jpg, .png, .gif or .tif format, although .jpg is preferred.
If you can find suitable images from your supplier (or even images which are already on Amazon) you can submit these, providing they comply with the guidelines. If you cannot find suitable images you will need to edit those that you do have, or take your own original photos. You don’t need to be a professional photographer to do this well, and there are free software solutions which can help you clean up images such as FotoFuze. You can use this tool to remove shadows and ensure that the background is pure white.
For some categories you will need to submit invoices for the products you have ready to sell. This allows Amazon to check that you have acquired the goods from a reputable source. The requirement is usually for three invoices from different sources. You cannot use store receipts but packing slips should be sufficient providing they show the products, quantities and supplier details clearly.
The invoices need to show your business name and address, the quantity of products you have purchased and your suppliers name, address and telephone number. You can black out cost prices and payment information if you wish. If your business is based on retail arbitrage, then you will need to purchase your products from a store website to obtain an invoice rather than a till receipt.
Flat file upload
For some categories you will need to submit a flat file of the products you intend to sell. A flat file is basically an Excel spreadsheet which you can upload to Seller Central to list your products in bulk rather than listing each one individually. Amazon provides flat file templates for each category. All you need to do is download the file for the category you are applying for, and fill in each column correctly with your products.
You will need at least five products for this, and in certain categories some of them will need to be parent/child products. That means products which are the same apart from one key variation such as size or colour. Say, for example, if you wish to sell t-shirts your parent listing will be for “t-shirts” and your child listings might be a range of sizes or colours. You need to show Amazon you understand this process of listing variations of products, and you won’t go and create multiple listings where they are not required. The template you download from Amazon is easy to follow and includes full explanations of exactly what is needed in each column.
Getting permission to sell in a restricted category is not difficult as long as you follow the guidelines above, and any additional instructions from Amazon.
Other Amazon Restrictions
There are other restrictions on products sold through the Amazon marketplace which are not negotiable, or significantly more difficult to get exceptions for. If you create your own listings to try and get around one of these restrictions you will end up with a policy violation, which is extremely damaging to your account health. Or you may even be banned straight away.
Make sure you know what is and isn’t allowed because not knowing is not an acceptable excuse.
There are a number of brands which you are not able to sell on Amazon. These brands are restricted for a number of reasons: they may be particularly vulnerable to counterfeiting, or the brand may wish to keep their products exclusive elsewhere.
There is no official list of restricted brands but there are many that have been put together by sellers that you can find online, here’s an example from The Selling Family. These are mostly big-name brands such as Apple, MAC Cosmetics or Burberry. For some brands the restrictions are limited to specific products, but for others there is a blanket restriction for all products. To complicate things further, for some brands you can list used items but not new.
It’s something of a minefield. If you have any doubts about a product it’s worth trying to list it before buying your stock. Don’t go so far as to put the listing live if you don’t have the stock yet, or you might get a sale which you will then need to cancel. In most cases Amazon will let you know you are unable to sell the product during the listing process, so you won’t end up wasting money on stock you are not allowed to sell.
In some cases restricted brands can be sold if you gain approval from the brand in question. This is certainly not an easy task, but if you are in direct contact with a brand and they give you permission to sell their products on Amazon you will then need to get in touch with Amazon via Seller Support to find out what steps to take.
If you are using Amazon’s FBA program there are certain products which Amazon does not accept for storage in its warehouse. Whilst you can sell these products on the Amazon marketplace, you will not be able to send them to Amazon’s warehouse and will need to fulfil orders yourself.
Most FBA prohibited products are fairly intuitive and probably won’t surprise you. These products include: firearms, fireworks, knives, razor blades (unless they are enclosed in a cartridge), medicines, loose gemstones etc. In other words, anything which may cause harm to warehouse staff. These guidelines can vary depending on the marketplace you are selling through, so make sure you check the specifics for your country.
Some of the prohibited products may surprise you. For example, Amazon’s warehouses are unable to store alcohol, and some health and beauty products may not be allowed. In addition, products which are regulated as hazardous materials (Hazmat) are not eligible. This includes products with compressed gas, and chemicals which are potentially explosive, flammable or corrosive.
Another more common issue you might come across is products with lithium batteries. Lithium batteries, and products containing lithium batteries, are considered Hazmat and will need to be treated a little differently to other products. If you are shipping a product to an Amazon warehouse and it contains lithium batteries, but has never been sold through FBA before, you will need to fill in a form for Hazmat review. This ensures the product can be handled and stored safely, and in compliance with the laws in your country. These forms are easy to fill out and if you do so correctly you shouldn’t have any issues.
If you are thinking of selling any products which contain chemicals or batteries it is worth adding them to your Amazon FBA inventory before you invest in stock, to make sure you won’t end up having to fulfil orders yourself if this isn’t feasible for you.
There are some products which Amazon simply does not allow to be sold through its marketplace. These are not products you can get permission to sell – they are simply not allowed. Many are products which cannot be sold legally, and will probably not surprise you.
Animals and animal products such as fur, feathers and ivory are not permitted along with live animals of course. Used clothing is not allowed, only new clothing. Any products which would usually require a medical prescription are not permitted, as well as legal or illegal drugs and related paraphernalia. Tobacco products and e-cigarettes are also banned.
There may seem to be many products which are restricted in some way on the Amazon marketplace. In reality there are millions of products which can, and are, sold through Amazon.
Do your research and make sure you understand the restrictions. If you know when you have a chance of getting permission – and when there is simply no chance – you will not have any problems.
If you’re ever unsure about whether a product is restricted, you have two options depending on whether or not it’s already listed for sale on Amazon.
If there is already a listing associated with the product, you can try adding it to your inventory to see if Amazon flags any issues. This might seem inconvenient but it only takes two minutes, and could save you the hardship of negotiating refunds with suppliers or fulfilling orders yourself.
If there isn’t currently a listing for the product on the Amazon marketplace, you can always contact Seller Support to find out whether there are likely to be any issues with the item you want to sell.
Let me know if you have any questions, and good luck!
You can also download ProfitSourcery’s PDF guide to restricted categories.
ProfitSourcery is listed in the Web Retailer directory.