On May 14, 2013, Amazon designated the grocery category, along with beauty, and health and personal care, as a restricted category. This means that sellers must be approved by Amazon to sell items in those categories. Many categories on Amazon such as books, home and garden, pet products, baby products, and toys do not require approval to sell.
While this change definitely affects anyone brand new to selling on Amazon, it may or may not affect established sellers. The first step for current sellers in the process is to determine if approval has already been granted.
To determine if you are already approved, follow these steps:
1. Go to the Amazon page showing categories and products requiring approval.
2. Choose the grocery category, or other category of interest.
3. You will be redirected to the seller log in page.
4. The seller requirements are explained.
5. Product requirements are explained.
6. Click the gold “Request Approval” button at the bottom.
Sellers will see one of two messages:
1. You are currently approved to sell grocery products in the US.
2. You are not approved.
If the seller is approved, he may continue business as usual. No documentation or changes are needed.
If a seller is not approved, it may be for various reasons that can be overcome. First, the seller may need to upgrade to the Professional Account. This is now required to sell in grocery, beauty, and health and personal care. Any seller wanting to sell on Amazon as a business should have the Professional Account because the Buy Box cannot be obtained without it.
Second, the seller’s metrics may need to be improved. The Order Defect Rate must be less than 1%. The Pre-Fulfillment Cancel Rate must be less than 2.5%. The Late Shipment Rate (merchant filling) must be less than 4%. If the seller’s metrics do not meet these standards, the seller can work on improving these rates and reapply in the future.
Finally, the seller may be required to show invoices where grocery, beauty, or health and personal care items were ordered from a supplier. In this case, a supplier is a wholesaler or distributor, not a retail store. The invoice must contain the seller’s business name, address, description and quantity of units ordered, and the supplier’s name and address and cannot be more than 90 days old. Amazon wants to see that sellers have a professional relationship with a reputable supplier. A good source for finding suppliers is this supplier directory for online sellers.
There is much speculation as to why Amazon has made this change to the grocery, beauty, and health and personal care categories. One opinion is that items in these categories, are often counterfeit. For example, the beauty category contains fragrances and cosmetics, which can often be counterfeit.
The more plausible explanation is that Amazon is trying to clean up these categories after an influx of new sellers over the last 2 years. Many listings are sloppy, have bad photographs, contain bundles that don’t make sense, or are otherwise not up to Amazon standards. By limiting new and inexperienced sellers, Amazon can prevent sloppy listings and unprofessional product bundles that don't fit with its image.
Most sellers who have already been selling in these three categories are already approved to continue selling and no action is necessary. Other sellers interested in gaining approval should follow the steps above as requested by Amazon. Reputable sellers who follow the rules shouldn’t have any trouble gaining approval to sell in these categories.