Amazon To Suspend Shipping Non-Essential Items To Warehouses Until April

Amazon has announced it will not allow sellers to ship non-essential items to its warehouses until April 5. The decision is part of an effort to conserve space for medical supplies and household staples that are in high demand during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a Business Insider report. News of this decision was revealed in a memo Amazon forwarded to its third-party sellers, those who use the company to store and dispatch their products.

The memo revealed that Amazon's stock of medical supplies -- and certain household items -- is currently running low due to the rapid increase in demand created by online shoppers. To cope, the company has specified six categories it has deemed as "essential products" -- items that sellers can continue to ship to their warehouses: baby products, health and household; beauty and personal care; groceries; industrial and scientific; and pet supplies. The memo detailed their logic in making the decision.

"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... We understand this is a change for our selling partners and appreciate their understanding as we temporarily prioritize these products for customers."

Employees gift wrap items before dispatching them in the huge Amazon 'fulfilment centre' warehouse on November 28, 2013 in Peterborough, England.
Getty Images | Oli Scarff

About half of all sales on Amazon involve third-party sellers that list their products in the marketplace section of the company's website. Many of these sellers also pay a fee to use Amazon's fulfillment system, allowing them to store their products in the retail giant's warehouses and to use Amazon's delivery and logistics apparatus. This change will also affect vendors who sell their items to Amazon at wholesale prices. Third-party retailers began to suspect that Amazon would make this change after the company didn't place its usual purchase orders on Monday.

Amazon's decision means that many items that are not deemed as essential will be unavailable in the weeks ahead. Alternatively, sellers could also ship items directly to customers. According to Business Insider, third-party retailers have seen their sales drop by between 40 and 60 percent since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Amazon also plans to hire 100,000 full-time and part-time workers across the country in an effort to meet the high demand from customers who have been forced to remain at home.

This suspension comes days after Amazon suspended the accounts of affiliated sellers who attempted to profit from coronavirus concerns by inflating the prices of desirable items such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.