The Amazon marketplace is not a free-for-all. Here’s how gated categories work, and the process for getting approved to sell in them.
It is no secret that Amazon restricts sellers from offering products in certain categories. To sell products in these “gated” categories, sellers have to go through an approval process. However, this process varies greatly depending on the category you are trying to get “ungated”.
In this article, we explain which categories are gated and the information you need to provide to get approved. We also look at the big questions that many sellers have about restricted categories and explain whether getting ungated is really worth the effort.
Why does Amazon restrict or “gate” certain categories?
As the number of third-party sellers on Amazon has grown, so has the risk to Amazon’s reputation. If a customer receives a faulty, counterfeit or poor-quality item, it won’t be the seller they’ll blame, it’ll be Amazon.
So to protect customers, and themselves, Amazon restricts categories which are particularly susceptible to counterfeiting and quality issues.
To get approved, sellers have to submit information about their business and their products. From this, Amazon can make sure that only genuine sellers with authentic products are selling in these categories.
Which categories are gated?
At the present time, Amazon restricts and requires approval for the following top-level categories:
- Automotive & Powersports
- Collectibles (e.g. books, coins, sports and entertainment)
- Fine Art
- Fine Jewelry
- Grocery & Gourmet Food
- Major Appliances
- Video, DVD & Blu-Ray
The Toys & Games category is also gated during the holiday selling season.
So are the other categories completely open?
No, just because the category is not gated does not mean that other restrictions don’t apply. Some of the most common things to look out for other than category restrictions are:
In some cases, Amazon does not restrict the whole category, just specific subcategories.
For example, you don’t need approval to sell in the Health and Beauty categories, but you do to sell in the Topicals subcategory. It is not always obvious which subcategories are gated, so it’s always best to do your research and test the waters before buying a lot of stock.
These are restricted brands that third-party sellers need approval for before they can sell them on Amazon.
The restriction can be on the entire brand, or just apply to certain products. Examples of restricted brands include Adidas, Apple, Bose, Levi’s and MAC Cosmetics.
There are also restricted products that are either banned entirely, or need prior approval to sell on Amazon.
Usually, these are products that could be harmful or have had serious product quality issues in the past. Popular items currently on the list of restricted products include streaming media players and laser devices.
Some products on Amazon can only be sold in certain conditions (new or used, for example). For example, there are many categories where sellers can only list new items, such as Clothing & Accessories, Watches and Baby Products.
It is also worth remembering that Amazon’s restricted categories are constantly changing. Categories that are open right now may not be in a few months’ time. So it’s also worth checking regularly on any category you plan to sell in, or are selling in now, that doesn’t currently require approval.
Exactly which categories are restricted? How do I get approved?
The best way to see exactly which categories, products and brands are restricted, and find out the specific requirements for approval, is to try and list a product for sale.
But that doesn’t mean you should wait until you have purchased stock. Instead just start walking through the process to discover if any restrictions are in place. Also check out Amazon’s category overview and restricted products help pages, but use caution as they can sometimes be subject to interpretation or simply out of date.
You can request approval to sell in any of Amazon’s restricted categories through Seller Central. Once you’ve logged in:
- Click on the Inventory tab and select “Add a Product”
- Find the product that you want to sell
- Click the link that says “Listing limitations apply”
- Click the “Request Approval” button
The application form is pretty straightforward. It starts by asking you to select the markets that you want to sell in. You will then be asked for information about the products that you want to sell, including the number of units you have and their condition.
Finally, you need to specify whether your images meet Amazon’s requirements. If they do, you can upload them and submit your application.
What are the typical requirements for approval?
Each category has its own specific rules, but requirements that apply to many categories include:
- Being on the professional selling plan
- Completion of the application form
- Good performance metrics, which generally means:
- Order Defect Rate less than 1%
- Pre-Fulfillment Cancellation rate less than 2.5%
- Late Shipment Rate less than 4%
- Evidence of authenticity (such as proof that your suppliers are licensed dealers)
- Acceptable invoices for your inventory
- A company website
Which categories have special requirements for approval?
Alongside the typical requirements above, Amazon requires additional information from sellers for approval in certain gated categories. These include:
Automotive & Powersports
To sell in the Automotive & Powersports category, sellers must also:
- Have compliant product images hosted on an independent website or image hosting site
- Provide either a manufacturer or re-manufacturer warranty for all certified refurbished products
To sell in the Fine Art category, sellers must:
- Have been selling fine art for a minimum of three years
- Have a strong online presence either on their own site or a third-party site
This is the hardest of all Amazon’s gated categories to break into, including an ungating fee in the thousands of dollars. Additional requirements include:
- Having at least 12 months experience of selling on Amazon with annual revenue of $50,000 or more
- At least one brick-and-mortar store, with an average revenue of $50,000 or more
To sell wine on Amazon, sellers have to be a licensed winery or importer, or a wholesaler with retail sales privileges.
What are the requirements for invoices?
Invoices are a crucial part of the approval process. They help Amazon decipher where your stock is coming from and, most importantly, whether it’s authentic. Get this step wrong and it is going to destroy your chances of getting approved.
Before you submit invoices, assess for yourself whether they will pass Amazon’s invoice verification process. Some of the key factors are:
- The invoices need to be legible, so make sure they are scanned or photographed in high quality with no smears or blurs.
- Make sure that the invoices are recent. Invoices for certain categories, including grocery, need to be from the last 180 days or Amazon won’t accept them.
- The invoices must name the products you purchased and clearly show where you sourced them from.
- Both your physical address and phone number and your supplier’s physical address and phone number should be on the invoices.
- Make sure that your address on the invoices matches your address in Seller Central.
- Never submit a handwritten invoice.
It is also worth noting that when it comes to seeking approval in gated categories, retail receipts and purchase orders aren’t going to cut it. Only detailed business invoices that meet all the criteria will be good enough.
If you are approved in a category can you sell anything there?
This is a common mistake that sellers make. Just because you have been approved for the top-level category, does not mean that you can sell any product within that category.
- Gated subcategories: subcategories can be gated and have their own approval process.
- Restricted brands: certain brands also have their own approval process. Be aware of these and don’t get stuck with stock that you aren’t allowed to sell.
- Restricted products: you need approval to sell products that Amazon sees as being potentially dangerous. Some are banned entirely.
- Condition restrictions: in many categories you can’t sell used or refurbished goods. So, make sure you know the restrictions for the categories that you sell in.
For more information see above So are the other categories completely open?
What is an ungating service?
Amazon category ungating services help sellers apply to sell in restricted categories.
They handle the application process, from making sure you’ve got the right documentation and invoices, to filling out the application form. Many boast 100% success rates or guarantee that they can get you approved in any of Amazon’s restricted categories.
If you are struggling with the approval process, it might be worth considering one of these services. But be aware that they don’t do anything that you can’t do yourself. They are not official Amazon service providers and have no special status or priority access to Amazon. They also can’t really guarantee that you will be approved, as the decision is out of their hands.
Selling on Amazon and other marketplaces involves a lot of policies, processes and rules, and gated categories are just another chapter in that rule book. If reading, comprehending and following detailed rules is not your strength then your Amazon selling career is going to be tough!
What’s the difference between restricted categories, restricted brands and restricted products?
Amazon is a complex marketplace and it’s easy for sellers to confuse the different types of restrictions. Here’s a simple breakdown:
- Restricted categories: these are entire categories of products, such as Grocery & Gourmet Food. Sellers need approval to sell any product that falls within that category.
- Restricted brands: these are brands (makes or manufacturers), e.g. Adidas, that third-party sellers are restricted from selling on Amazon.
- Restricted products: these are narrow product types, such as children’s toys containing lasers, that sellers need approval to sell.
How can you tell which categories you are approved for?
To check which categories you have been approved to sell in, you need to log in to Seller Central. Then:
- Click on the “Inventory” tab
- Select “Add a Product”
- Click the link “Selling application status”
This brings up a table showing you all the different categories that you have been approved to sell in.
You can also use the filters to see the categories where you’re still awaiting approval or where you’ve been denied access.
Is the Toys & Games category restricted or open?
The Toys & Games category is only subject to restrictions during the holiday season. These restrictions begin on October 17th each year and run through to the first week of January the following year.
Amazon put restrictions in place in other categories to address product quality issues. The holiday restrictions in Toys & Games, however, are there to help make sure sellers can keep up with increased Q4 demand.
To sell in Toys & Games during the holiday season, sellers must meet the following criteria:
- Your first sale on Amazon must be prior to August 18 of the current year. This doesn’t have to be in the Toys & Games category.
- You must have processed and shipped at least 25 orders from August 1st to October 1st of the current year. This can be in any category.
- A pre-fulfillment cancellation rate no higher than 1.75% from September 1st to September 30th of the current year.
- A late shipment rate no higher than 4% from September 1st to September 30th of the current year
- An order defect rate no higher than 1% (short term) as of October 1st of the current year.
Note that the holiday selling restriction in Toys & Games is for merchant-fulfilled products. Items fulfilled using FBA are not affected.
Are Health & Personal Care and Beauty gated categories?
The Health and Beauty categories used to be restricted as a whole, but this is no longer the case.
However, specific subcategories are now gated instead. These include, but may not be limited to:
- Dietary Supplements
- Feminine Hygiene
- OTC Medication
- Sports Nutrition
Just like with gated categories, you can apply to sell in gated subcategories through Seller Central. The process is just the same, although the specific requirements will vary and might include a fee.
Is getting approved really worth the effort?
There is no doubt that Amazon’s category restrictions can be confusing. They change often and can be difficult to decipher.
But at the same time, it’s definitely worth persevering and trying to gain approval. Category restrictions are a barrier to entry and if you can hurdle them, you’ll have a clear advantage over sellers that don’t get approved, or don’t even try.
Ultimately, there are some elements of selling on Amazon that are easier than others. But the parts that are harder, like getting approved in restricted categories, are the most powerful. By accessing them, you set yourself apart and face less competition.
The rewards can be great for sellers who are willing to take the time, learn Amazon’s processes and go beyond the basics.
This article is an updated version of a post first published in August 2015.