what this blog is all about...

Do you sell stuff on-line? Interested in it? Well, this blog might be for you. Don't expect lots of news stories or other stuff you can easily get. I want to give you the ugly side...the practical, the-stuff-they-don't-warn-you-about side of on-line retailing for the small seller.

I've been selling on-line for about 9 years. And I'm happy to share some of my experience and knowledge with anyone who has the patience to trudge their way through my random ramblings!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Selling On Amazon at Christmas: the "warning" letter

I want to give you a little heads-up if you want to sell on Amazon at Christmas, specifically toys and games.

About mid-year, AZ sends out a letter to their sellers to give them a bit of a warning about their cut-offs. In order to provide the best customer experience for xmas buyers, AZ limits sellers of toys and games during the season. We just got ours today.

What do they do exactly? Well, there are two things they do:

1. After mid-September, AZ won't accept any new sellers for toys and games. You can be a new seller and sell just about anything else...just nothing in the toys and games categories. Why? Well, if you're new, they have no idea if you are an honest seller or not. So...better to error on the side of safety. Remember, AZ is watching out for their own reputation.

2. As of mid-November on, the sellers who passed the above screening process can sell toys and games ONLY if their seller performance meets certain criteria. The criteria isn't difficult to match, but if you don't hit the numbers they want, they can effectively block out the toys and games you have for sale at any time.

The criteria? Low defect rate (which includes negative feedback, chargeback claims, and Amazon A-to-Z claims), low late shipping rate, low rate of orders cancelled by the seller.

Get just one of these numbers a bit high, and you can't sell your GI Joe action figures or your Monopoly games.

About 95% of our xmas sales were toys and games. It's basically all we bought and all we had listed, and we sold out of a lot of it before mid-December. And we were still getting plenty of orders up to December 21st.

The lesson? If you want to sell in these categories at Christmas, keep your sales going, keep the positive feedback high, don't cancel orders on customers, ship fast and don't misrepresent your products.

Now most of that was easy for us, since we use Fulfillment by Amazon. So if someone ordered something from us, that meant that it was in stock at the time of ordering (since AZ handles the inventory for us); shipments were made fast; items were well-packed, so less chance of returns.

So FBA definitely helped us make the cut and make sales during the season. Yes, it's an expensive program, but we could not have handled the 1000+ orders we got in that short 5-week period.

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