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Amazon.com Inc. will slowly increase the assortment of products that can be shipped to its warehouses this week, easing restrictions instituted in March that prioritized essential goods such as medical supplies, groceries and pet food amid the pandemic.
It’s far from a return to normal operations for the online retailer, which was overwhelmed by demand from shoppers avoiding stores and had to abandon its quick delivery promises. Still, it’s a sign that Amazon is able to accommodate a larger assortment of goods after hiring 100,000 workers and announcing plans to hire 75,000 more. Further details about specific products being accepted and quantities will be shared with Amazon’s merchant partners in the coming days.
“Later this week, we will allow more products into our fulfillment centers,” Amazon said in an emailed statement. “Products will be limited by quantity to enable us to continue prioritizing products and protecting employees, while also ensuring most selling partners can ship goods into our facilities.”
The move was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.
In prioritizing toilet paper, bleach and sanitizing wipes over things like flat-screen televisions and toys, the company focused on delivering products people need right now, sacrificing sales from its deep inventory for the time being.
More than half of all products sold on Amazon come from independent merchants who pay Amazon commissions on each sale plus fees for storing, packing and delivering products. Merchants selling in-demand products saw a nice sales bump from swift changes in customer demand while those in the out-of-favor categories watched their sales tank.
While Amazon wasn’t accepting new shipments of goods it deemed nonessential, workers in warehouses around the country said they continued to shelve and ship nonessential items like kickballs, bedsheets and books as well as restock returned items. That generated tension because some workers said they felt Amazon could further restrict the products it sold to better protect warehouse workers. Dozens of employees have contracted the coronavirus, and protests have erupted in New York, Chicago and outside Detroit.
Groceries and household essentials as well as bread machines, home fitness equipment and computer monitors were among Amazon’s fastest-growing products in March, according to the online retail research firm Stackline. Luggage, cameras and party supplies were among the categories that saw the biggest sales drop last month.
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