Amazon's "Fulfillment by Amazon" (FBA) program, through which it provides warehousing and shipment services for products from third-party sellers, as well as its larger vendor shipment services, are being partially suspended through April 5 due to the global coronavirus outbreak. This suspension will allow Amazon to prioritize shipment of "household staples, medical supplies and other high-demand products" the company said in a support document on its website, and confirmed to TechCrunch in an email.
The commerce giant notes in the email that it is "seeing increased online shopping" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will focus on prioritizing the reception, restocking and delivery of the essential products that are most in demand from this new uptick in activity from Amazon shoppers. For all other products, Amazon says it has disabled the creation of new inbound shipments for FBA members, as well as for retail vendors (their business-to-business selling platform).
Any existing shipments created prior to today are still going to be processed at Amazon's fulfillment centers as usual, the company says, but otherwise new orders won't be processed until such time as Amazon alerts sellers that things are back to normal. The tentative date for the program to resume in full is April 5, as mentioned, but it sounds like Amazon could extend these limitations depending on how the pandemic progresses.
Amazon is prioritizing goods in baby, health and household, beauty and personal care, grocery, industrial and scientific and pet supplies categories, the company says in a support document explaining the new limitations. Products outside of these categories that are already in Amazon's fulfillment centers, or that are on their way to those facilities ahead of March 17, can still be sold through the platform.
This also doesn't block sellers from selling their products on the platform and fulfilling the shipments themselves, the help document notes. That might be the only option available to sellers and retailers who want to continue offering their non-prioritized goods to Amazon buyers through at least the next few weeks.
An Amazon spokesperson provided TechCrunch the following statement regarding the suspension:
We are seeing increased online shopping and as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock. With this in mind, we are temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so 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.
Amazon has taken other steps to address the increased demand it's seeing on the platform as more and more countries and cities implement isolation and quarantine measures, including shelter-in-place orders. The company announced on Monday that it would be looking to hire as many as 100,000 additional warehouse and delivery employees to address the increase.