Revive Dead Amazon Inventory
By Tina Marie Bueno | September 13th, 2016
No matter how much research goes into selecting the best products to sell on Amazon, success can hardly be guaranteed. For many Sellers, it takes multiple good ol’ fashion edge-of-your-seat product failures before discovering the golden ones. Even seasoned Sellers find product line expansion to be a similar pattern: Hit or miss. Do you have more than a desirable amount of misses sitting in Amazon’s warehouses collecting dust and requiring long term inventory fees? How much of your precious cash flow is tied up in flatlined FBA inventory? It’s time to rewrite that story.
The first and often biggest hurdle to jump is a willingness to let it go. After all of the energy (both emotional and financial) invested in selecting, sourcing, packaging, and launching a product; it can be painful to face the facts. Need a sobering moment to motivate you into action? Look at the bottom line. Stagnant products drain your overall profitability. Stop ignoring signs of sales trickling in at a snail’s pace for more than eight months. Shift perspectives and look for ways to transition stale inventory into money.
Take steps to confirm there are no other unsuspected reasons that your products aren’t moving beyond the scope of lackluster buyer interest.
Run a Suppressed Listing Report
If you haven’t done this recently, verify that the non-moving inventory isn’t actually a suppressed listing. If it’s suppressed, shoppers aren’t seeing it. Sometimes when adding a new product it passed inspection initially, but then caught the catalog team’s attention as not fully complying with Amazon’s listing policies. Anything from the wrong category to unacceptable images to non-compliant titles or descriptions, to missing critical information regarding material type or Brand name –are reasons to make your listing invisible. Most likely you never received a memo disclosing the issue either.
If you are selling only a few sku’s, then take a moment to open and scan your product listing details from within Inventory Management. One of these tabs will display some type of attention grabbing indicator:
Alternatively, if you sell many products, running a report regularly should be on your list of weekly things to do. From within Seller Central, select Inventory Reports:
Next, click on Listing Quality and Suppressed Listing Report in the Select Report Type:
It can take up to 45 for this report to be ready. Set a timer as a reminder to check while getting other things done in the meantime. The report will display these headings:
You’ll know which sku/ASIN is being suppressed and why. Make repairs immediately.
Run a Cancelled Listing Report
This is different than a Suppressed Listing since it is permanent. According to Amazon, the Cancelled Listings Report contains all listings that were cancelled by Amazon within the past 30 days. It does not include items that were sold out, cancelled by the seller, or purged using the Inventory Loader or other inventory files.
Once again, an email notification may not be forthcoming. Run this report from the same Select Report Type list and get more things done since it too may take up to 45 minutes before this downloadable report is ready:
This report will display more headings:
- item-is-marketplace product-id-type
Resolve any issues and open a Seller Support case to find out if there is any possible way to get the product off Cancelled Listing status. If the result is futile, make sure all reimbursements are completed, create a removal order request of the inventory, and then actually delete that product listing.
Look for Stranded Inventory
With so many moving parts to listing and inventory management, inventory reports may not exactly align with in-house spreadsheets. It is easy for products to be lost in the mix. Have customer returned products been damaged or deemed unsellable? Have some items not been properly transitioned from FBM to FBA? Deciphering and cross-referencing multiple Amazon reports simultaneously can be mind boggling; however, you can discover sku’s that are remiss by clicking here:
Then click on,
This will lead to any Stranded Inventory and provide an opportunity to Remove, Destroy or Relist it.
From Red to Green
Now that any Amazon generated reasons products may not be selling has been investigated; you’re ready to stop seeing Amazon inventory as red numbers on your financial statements by repurposing old-as-dirt inventory.
Looking for suggestions before planning your next strategic move? How about these?
Run a Promotion with a Different Goal – By now you are most likely familiar with the various promotions available on Amazon, including that some products may qualify for Lightning Deals (assuming enough inventory is available).
Make whatever deal you choose so sweet buyers won’t want to miss out. In Adam Hudson’s interview, he suggested lowering prices on lost hope inventory to your costs. In other words, price to sell.
The difference with these promotions is rather than asking buyers for Product Reviews (because you’ll be closing this listing), ask for Seller Feedback. Even if this listing is completely removed, Seller Feedback ratings remain and have a strong impact on prospective shoppers seeking information about your company (and other products you offer).
As always, provide the best service possible. Everyone in your company who interacts with Amazon customers needs to be trained to handle all communications with professional, friendly, the customer’s-always-right attitude. You know, just like Amazon does.
Make sure the listing title, bullets, description and images are perfect. Everything will affect how your company is rated.
Invent Bundles – You will need to fill in a removal order to get back the inert inventory. Can you create a unique bundle with your next FBA replenishment shipment? Would this item be an enticing freebie to include? Could this inclusion not affect the current packaging of the product it would be bundled with?
Having a bonus item that makes sense, appeals to deal-seeking Amazon buyers. This requires some effort to update your listing, bullets, description and images. You may even be able to slightly increase the selling price.
Carefully inspect returned inventory to ascertain its condition. You wouldn’t want to put a used, damaged or defective giveaway with a new product in your bundle.
That said, if it is slightly used, selling it FBM on Amazon or eBay described as such is also an alternative.
Set-up Multi-Channel Fulfillment and Add New Sales Outlets – Maybe this product isn’t selling well on Amazon, but could on other online platforms such as eBay or Jet.com. Setting up MCF for both slow and popular FBA products is a great way to expand. Or at the very least, move product that has been nesting on Amazon’s warehouse shelves.
Unpopular (on Amazon) inventory could get seen by a whole new cluster of potential buyers. Meanwhile, Amazon will fulfill your off site orders just as easily. Fees are slightly more than FBA’s, but your current pricing and margins could be set to cover them.
Try Liquidating Your Inventory Via Amazon’s Pilot Program– This falls under the “Some money is better than none” philosophy. Amazon’s Liquidation option is a pilot program created to help Sellers recover a portion of inventory costs. This could be a worthwhile option if nothing else works and the goal is to turn flopping inventory into money that could be used for so many other things. Basically, this programs allows you to liquidate inventory sitting in Amazon’s US fulfillment centers by brokering it through an Amazon subsidiary.
This program is accessed by clicking the menu table located on the far right of the product listed on your inventory page. Selecting Create removal order, sets this process in motion:
This will lead to the Liquidate method option:
Fill-in all of the details as requested.
After you submit a liquidation order, the items in your order will be reviewed and reserved for as long as 60 days to avoid sale or removal. An Amazon subsidiary will then send the list of the inventory to one or more liquidators. If a liquidator bids on your inventory, it will be removed from fulfillment centers and shipped to the liquidator.
Amazon states that the recovered value for liquidated inventory is typically about 10% of its original average selling price, although no amounts guaranteed. They also explain that you will receive 90% of the proceeds received from liquidation. (Remember, that’s 90% of the 10% of selling price.) For example, if your selling price is $35. Then most likely the liquidation price will be $3.50. If it sells, you would receive $3.15. Amazon would receive 10% of the recovered proceeds.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you will receive payment for the liquidated items within 60 days of the date on which you submitted the liquidation order. So, it’s not necessarily on the same cycle (every two weeks) you are accustomed to with the Professional Seller plan.
If this is a viable option, carefully read through the program details. It may not be available to all Sellers just yet and even Amazon reserves to cancel the program without notification.
Give it the ol’ Heave-ho
Letting products sit in long-term inventory just isn’t a habit to foster. Especially since you could replace it with products that actually do sell. Tying up cash doesn’t help your company stay healthy or grow. Create an immobile inventory exit strategy that’s aligned with your Amazon business philosophy. Avoid kicking yourself over whatever you paid for it and instead stay focused on all of your product successes and making that sluggish inventory pay for its costs and transform into funds for new products.
Tina Marie Bueno is a global citizen with an MBA in Int’l Business plus over 20 years of content marketing experience both in the U.S. and overseas. As iLoveToReview’s Marketing Director, she strives to deliver relevant content to serve Amazon businesses of all sizes.