Amazon is temporarily prohibiting third-party sellers from shipping and storing non-essential items at its warehouses until April 5, 2020. This will likely impact the products available for "Fulfillment by Amazon" (FBA) orders in the near-future.
Amazon did not announce that it was halting shipping on all non-essential items. Amazon will continue to ship non-essential items to consumers as long as those items are in stock. Products that are not shipped from Amazon's warehouses will not be affected by this temporary policy.
In March 2020, a number of cities in the United States and around the globe started to urge people to stay at home in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus disease. As people started to gather supplies for their "quarantine," a worrying rumor started to circulate on social media that Amazon was suspending all deliveries except for medical supplies and household staples:
Amazon has not suspended all deliveries except for medical supplies and household staples.
This rumor appears to be based on a misinterpreted headline and a misunderstanding of how Amazon's business works. The problem was likely exacerbated by the fact that many news articles about this report were locked behind paywalls.
The Fulfillment by Amazon program (FBA) allows third-party sellers to ship and store their products at Amazon's warehouses for a fee. When an order is placed, Amazon has direct access to the product and can quickly ship it to the customer. In March 2020, the company informed third-party sellers who use the FBA program that Amazon was temporarily prioritizing medical and essential home supplies for their warehouse service.
NBC News reported:
Amazon is not accepting new products to its warehouse service except household staples, medical supplies and other high-demand items through April 5, according to an announcement obtained by NBC News. Amazon confirmed the authenticity of the announcement.
“We are seeing increased online shopping and as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock,” the company announced on its seller platform called Seller Central. “With this in mind, 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 ship these products to customers.”
While this new policy will certainly impact the products available via Amazon's FBA program, Reuters reported that Amazon defined "essential" items to include "baby products; health and household items; beauty and personal care; grocery; industrial and scientific; and pet supplies."
Amazon will also continue to ship non-essential items that are currently stocked in its warehouses. This new policy will not impact non-essential items that are sold and shipped by third-party sellers.
Steven Yates, CEO of Prime Guidance, an agency that helps Amazon sellers, said:
"Amazon is taking drastic measures to address logistical challenges faced amid the coronavirus pandemic[...]. Amazon has struggled to keep up with demand on essential items, so this move will allow them to focus more available resources to meet this increased demand."
Business Insider posted a "clarification" message on Twitter, explaining that Amazon was suspending shipments of non-essential items to its warehouses.
To sum up: Amazon announced on March 17, 2020, that it was temporarily halting the delivery of non-essential items to its warehouses until April 5 so that it could prioritize medical and household supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon will continue to ship non-essential items to consumers as long as those items are currently in stock. This new policy will likely impact the products available via Amazon's FBA program in the near future, but customers will still be able to buy non-essential items from third-party vendors.