Selling on Amazon can be rewarding, fun and lucrative as long as you abide by the rules.
By necessity, Amazon has a number of rules and guidelines which sellers must be aware of, including the category of restricted products.
As with most companies, for Amazon, reputation is everything – which is why it levies restrictions on the selling of certain kinds of items on the site in order to protect itself and its customers.
Amazon has some restricted categories in which sellers cannot sell or may have trouble with, and here is our complete guide with it.
Amazon Restricted Categories are products for which Amazon has strict guidelines in order to ensure safety and prevent fraudulent activity.
Amazon’s official stance is that it limits the addition of new sellers in restricted categories in order to ensure that its customers may shop with confidence.
These categories include the following:
- Gourmet food items
- Collectible books and coins
- Major appliances
- Vehicles and powersport vehicles
- Clothing, accessories and other soft goods
- Valuable jewelry and watches
- Fine art
- Sexual items
- Wines and spirits
- Entertainment items such as DVDs and CDs
- Health and pharmaceutical items
For an Amazon FBA seller, this means that you will be unable to sell products in restricted categories unless you are able to fulfil certain criteria – and provide proof of this.
Each category within restricted items has its own criteria for acceptance – full details of which can be found here.
Although the restricted categories policy does not make it impossible for a new seller to list these items, it does make it a lot more difficult to do so.
There are, of course, those who are looking to sell illegal or fraudulent items with a certain amount of anonymity.
This is ideally suited to online selling – and is exactly why Amazon’s restricted items policy exists in the first place.
Many sellers, however, have genuine, high-quality products which they wish to sell on Amazon for a couple of reasons.
Items sold in restricted categories are often of high value – and therefore lucrative for a seller – a seller listing fine jewelry stands to make a good profit from as little as one sale.
Some high volume restricted category products such as vitamin supplements tend to sell very well despite quite stiff competition and, a seller who has faith in their product may want to showcase the product to as wide a market as possible.
Being accepted or ‘ungated’ for sale within Amazon’s restricted categories takes a little work and patience and, as with most things, preparation is the key.
Know the Requirements
First things first, you need to know the acceptance criteria for your specific product.
Trying to list your product without doing this research will almost certainly result in rejection and will be a waste of your time and energy.
For example, the guidelines for sellers looking to list fine art include the seller being in the business of selling fine art for at least three years, having a significant online presence through third party sites and, application of a curatorial element to a gallery selection via annual exhibitions or catalogs.
There would be no point in a fine art seller attempting to list on Amazon without being able to fulfill – and prove – these criteria.
There are two ways in which you can check out the guidelines for your product.
Go to your Seller Central page and click on the Help section. From there, you can conduct a search for restricted items. You can also access this list via a Google search – for example, ‘Amazon USA restricted items’.
Your search will present you with a list like the one below.
From here, you can click on ‘view requirements’ for a specific category in order to see what is required in order for your product to have a chance of being accepted.
Make a note of the requirements and check them against your product to see which points your product ‘passes’ on and which it doesn’t.
This will give you a good idea of what you will need to do for your product to be accepted.
Once you know the requirements, the following tips will help you to improve your chances of acceptance and get you on your way to selling your restricted categories product on Amazon.
Casting Your Web
Although it’s not an absolute requirement for every single restricted categories product, popular thinking is that having a website for your product will almost certainly add authenticity and, therefore, help your chances of approval.
Set up a dedicated website for the specific product you wish to sell (you can do this cheaply and easily on sites such as WordPress or Wix).
Make your website look professional by adding a logo, product content and clear contact information including a street address.
It’s important that your website looks professional and businesslike and not like something you’ve just thrown together for the sole purpose of gaining acceptance to Amazon’s restricted categories.
Show the Money
Not only is preparation essential but, unfortunately, in many cases, so is an initial financial outlay.
When applying to sell restricted category products, Amazon will almost certainly ask to see invoices from your product supplier.
For this, if you haven’t already done so, you will need to actually buy some product before even applying to Amazon.
Amazon is looking to see if you are a serious and professional seller so, it will help your case if you are able to provide more than one invoice from your supplier to show continuity and stability.
When making your initial purchase, ask your supplier to split the cost into three separate invoices and date them all a month apart.
Although this may seem a little deceitful, it may help your cause greatly when applying to Amazon to sell restricted products as it will show you to be a serious and regular buyer.
Show Your Product
In a number of Amazon restricted categories, you will need to have at least five products in order to be eligible and will be required to provide a flat file of the products.
A flat file is, essentially, a spreadsheet on which you list details and specifications of your products.
You can download the flat file template for specific products from Amazon and fill in the details for your products.
Once finished, save the file, download it and then upload it to your restricted categories submission where requested.
Amazon needs to know that you understand product variations – such as two products which are similar but are available in both child and adult versions – and that you know not to create multiple listings for these.
Again, Amazon wants to establish that you are a serious and professional seller so, details like these are important.
The Big Picture
In order for your product to be accepted by Amazon, you will need to provide one to five clear product images.
As with any kind of selling, the clearer and more attractive the images, the better chance you have of success.
You can either take your own photographs or ask for professional ones from your supplier but, these must fit within Amazon’s guidelines.
Currently, photographs accepted must be 1,280 pixels or above, be provided on jpg, png, gif or tif and, the product must occupy at least 85% of the space within the photograph.
No watermarks or logos are allowed and the product must be shown on a plain white background. If your photographs do not adhere to the guidelines, there are a number of online programs that you can use to alter them.
Once you’ve followed the above guidelines and you’re certain that your product ticks all the right boxes, you’re ready to submit your product to Amazon.
You’ll find instructions on this process on your Seller Central page.
There are a number of reasons why your application to sell restricted items may be rejected including:
You’re an Amazon seller newbie
If you have zero history as an Amazon seller, it is unlikely that you will be approved to sell restricted items.
On Amazon, the selling of restricted categories products tends to be a privilege given only to established and trusted sellers.
Don’t get disheartened – work on building up your selling history and then try again in a few months’ time.
Category temporarily closed to new sellers
On occasion, Amazon will limit or completely close a category to new sellers in order to regulate the number of products being sold in that category.
This is almost always subject to change so try again another time – you’ve already done the groundwork so you’ll be ready to go once the restriction is limited.
Amazon has a reputation for rejecting sellers in certain categories during the Christmas period. These categories include toys, packagings such as wrapping paper, and gift items.
If you intend to sell such items, make sure that you do so before the beginning of the holiday season for the best chance of success.
Can I Appeal a Rejection?
It is possible to appeal any decision by Amazon by going through the official appeal process, however, be warned – this can be a long and arduous process and adjudication rarely falls in favor of the seller.