People often ask me: “What do you sell on Amazon?” I like to grin and say “Anything that is profitable!” But I know that isn't what they are asking exactly. They want to know what types of products will fly off the virtual shelves.
And for new sellers, they're typically wondering how they can navigate products that are locked down in one of the Amazon gated categories.
Amazon has quite a few restricted categories, but it's nothing that would stop any new or experienced FBA seller from filling their shopping carts with ungated goods!
In this post, we are going to talk about the types of things you can sell on Amazon based on their categories (this is totally different from brands that are restricted on Amazon). Some categories are gated to new sellers and some categories are open from the start.
If you want to sell in any of the restricted categories, you will need to get category approval from Amazon. The process for approval can be different based on which category it is and we will cover some of the different methods further along in this post.
Going through the approval process can really expand your inventory opportunities as an Amazon seller. It can also reduce competition since there are usually fewer sellers in the gated categories on Amazon.
We hear from a lot of new sellers that sourcing is a challenge when you first get started selling FBA because you run into a lot of restricted categories and brands. We understand that when you're new it can feel hard to find inventory. A lot of sellers try to get ungated in as many areas as possible to speed up the process.
We totally get it and we’re here to help!
One thing though, we honestly feel like there are lots of things to sell that are NOT restricted. We recommend waiting until you've got some experience under your belt before you spend a lot of time (and sometimes even money) to get ungated in categories…unless you have specific products you already want to sell.
Alright, let's take a look at Amazon's gated categories plus the steps you can take to request Amazon category approval.
The Categories That Are Open To All Sellers On Amazon
So before we get into the process of getting ungated on Amazon, let's review the good news: there are tons of categories that are automatically open to everyone, including new sellers!
In fact, as of this 2019 update, there are fewer restricted categories than I've seen in many years!
The ungated Amazon categories include:
- Baby *
- Beauty ^
- Books (not including Collectible Books)
- Camera & Photo
- Clothing & Accessories
- Consumer Electronics
- Grocery & Gourmet Foods
- Health & Personal Care ^
- Home & Garden
- Industrial & Scientific (BISS)
- Kindle Accessories
- Luggage & Travel Accessories
- Musical Instruments
- Office Products
- Personal Computers
- Pet Supplies
- Shoes, Handbags, & Sunglasses
- Tools & Home Improvement
- Toys * ^
- Video Games
^ Sub-category restrictions may apply
This post was updated on February 27, 2019.
Things That We Actually Sell in the Open Categories
For those of you curious “what we sell” in these open categories, here are our favorite categories: Baby, Beauty, Health & Personal Care, Home & Garden, Grocery, and Toys. We pretty much personally steer clear of the other ones listed. So, just because a category is “open” doesn't mean that you HAVE to sell in it!
Some of the types of things we sell in the categories I just listed are: Baby blankets, Baby Toys, Shampoo & Conditioner, Make-up, Toiletries, Deodorant, Gift Sets, Bedding, Candles, Decorations, Candy, Teas, Board Games, Legos, Blocks and much much more.
You see, there are so many categories that are wide open, that's why I don't feel like it's necessary to get approved in Amazon's restricted categories right away.
Newly Ungated: Grocery, Beauty, and Health & Personal Care
For a while, these 3 categories (Grocery, Health & Personal Care, and Beauty) were completely gated to new sellers on Amazon (established sellers were grandfathered in). The good news is, these categories are no longer gated on Amazon, so you don’t need special permission to sell in them.
However, you may still need approval to sell in subcategories like topicals or over-the-counter medication. Your account might one day become eligible for automatic approval in these categories (more on that later). But sometimes you'll need to receive approval direct from the brand (which might set you back a few bucks). This process can get expensive so we don't recommend this route for new sellers.
Unfortunately, the process for ungating in some of these subcategories is not spelled out by Amazon. We have to learn as we go and see what Amazon asks for. Sometimes they just need invoices and other times they need documentation from the FDA.
We are always keeping our eyes open for a distributor or wholesaler who can help our students with subcategory approval requirements. If we find one that is easy to work with, we will let you all know.
Note that many brands or individual ASINs within these three categories ARE still restricted, so you may run into that. Just don’t get confused by a brand name restriction and think the whole category is off-limits. WIthin any category, restricted or ungated, you will still find individual product and brand restrictions.
Grocery seems to have the fewest restrictions of these three categories. We love the Grocery category because we can often find discontinued products with huge followings. So I am super excited that it is no longer restricted for new sellers!
But even though it's not restricted, there are a few special things to consider with Grocery. Make sure you know all of the rules for perishable inventory (that's inventory that expires, like food). Here's everything you need to know about selling products with expiration dates on Amazon.
Confusing Restrictions in Toys & Games
Just like the 3 categories above, there is a lot of misinformation about the Toys & Games category. Amazon made matters even more confusing in late 2018 by introducing a Toys Subcategory (within the larger Toys & Games Category).
Let's try to make some sense of Amazon's messy toy box!
Holiday Toy Restrictions
The only time of year that Toys & Games becomes a fully gated category is during the 4th quarter. And during Q4, they are ONLY restricted if you want to Merchant Fulfill them and even then, it's only if you don't meet the Holiday Selling Guidelines in Toys & Games. If you are selling using the FBA program, then you are good to go whether you are a new or established seller.
Amazon tends to make slight changes to the Holiday Selling Guidelines each year. I keep this blog post updated to reflect the current rules so give it a read if you're confused. Amazon will also send you an email in August and/or September with the guidelines.
Generally speaking, Amazon is looking for sellers who have demonstrated past success with Merchant Fulfilling. They don't want a newbie or bad seller ruining someone's Christmas with late MF shipments!
But let me remind you one more time: if you are sending in toys for FBA, they are NOT affected by the Holiday Toy Restrictions. Phew!
Once upon a time (ok, like a year ago), Amazon had many different subcategories within Toys & Games. These were things like Infant Toys, Learning Toys, or Toy Building Blocks.
At some point during 2018, Amazon consolidated all of these (and some other products) into a larger Subcategory just called “Toys”.
Now I wouldn't normally care about something nitpicky like this, but it also came with a new round of subcategory gating. Suddenly sellers found that they were Restricted to sell Toys….even though Toys & Games is an ungated Category!
This was getting too confusing so I wanted to get to the bottom of it.
To get ungated in the Toys subcategory, you need two things:
- A CPC (Children's Product Certificate) for one of the toys you want to sell
- An invoice from a reputable wholesaler showing an adequate amount of toys purchased from them
Amazon has been pretty picky about the CPC so I wanted a way to simplify the process. I understand that Toys is a subcategory that most sellers are interested in ungating…especially before the holidays!
I teamed up with a resourceful Boot Camp student who successfully navigated ungating her account in the Toys subcategory. This also landed her a bunch of Brand approvals (nice bonus!).
If you're restricted from selling Toys, be sure to check out our Toy Ungating Workshop. You can read all of the information right here or click the image below. We do have a few prerequisites before joining, so definitely read all of the details.
List of Amazon Restricted Categories
Ok, now that we have covered the categories that are open to all sellers on Amazon…And cleared up some confusion about categories that are sometimes (or were) gated, let's get to what are actually restricted categories on Amazon.
The following Amazon categories require approval:
- Automotive & Powersports
- Collectible Books
- Collectible Coins
- Entertainment Collectibles
- Fine Art
- Gift Cards
- Music & DVD
- Major Appliances
- Sports Collectibles
- Streaming Media Players
- Video, DVD, & Blu-ray
Restrictions Based On Product Condition
Used items cannot be sold in the following categories:
- Baby Products
- Clothing, Accessories & Luggage
- Grocery & Gourmet Food
- Health & Personal Care
- Shoes, Handbags & Sunglasses
- Toys & Games *
* Amazon has long banned selling toys in Used condition but would allow sellers to list them in Collectible condition. This is considered a “loophole” because that is where buyers and sellers go for “used” toys.
Things That We Actually Sell In The Gated Categories
Since I shared what types of things we sell from the open categories, I thought I better share what we like to sell from the gated categories.
That's right. We're not currently selling anything in any of the restricted categories. Now the big exceptions here are some of the subcategories like Toys and Topicals. We do sell those.
But now that Grocery and other big categories are ungated for new sellers, we don't generally worry too much about category restrictions.
Why Are Some Categories Gated On Amazon?
It helps to understand the reason Amazon has restricted categories in the first place. Usually it's because there are a lot of products in that category that are counterfeited, and Amazon wants to reduce its risk. Think about pirated DVDs, fake jewelry, or knockoff watches. They're all over the place. This is very common at flea-markets and even on eBay.
Amazon wants to make sure you're a legitimate, honest seller before granting you permission to sell in these somewhat risky categories. It doesn't want to be known as a platform that's easy for counterfeiters to use.
Other Types of Amazon Restrictions
When you're looking at restrictions, they include three major areas: categories, brands, and condition.
Restricted categories are just what they sound like: an entire category, like Jewelry, that Amazon guards carefully. You'd apply to Amazon directly to get approval to sell.
Then within any category, gated or not, you'll find some product restrictions and brand restrictions. This is when a brand like Disney or Black & Decker (or even much smaller companies) will go through a process with Amazon to have its brand protected.
This means that as a seller, you'd need permission direct from that brand to sell on Amazon; you'd work with the brand to obtain that permission, then supply proof to Amazon.
And finally, there are condition guidelines. This is like the Toys category, which doesn't allow you to sell toys as Used.
It's always a good idea to familiarize yourself with Amazon's Condition Guidelines.
Amazon Ungating: How to Request Category Approval
Amazon category approval requests aren't always complicated.
In some cases, you'll request approval to sell in a restricted category and will be approved automatically. We refer to this as “Automatic Approvals.”
This happens randomly and without notice. Amazon doesn't specify which brands or categories this works for, but usually someone in our Facebook group will alert us all when it happens so everyone else can give it a try as well. 🙂
Your success with Automatic Approvals may vary based on the age of your account or seller metrics. But it's so easy and fast that you might as well try!
In general, you'll request approval by following these steps to start the process:
1. In Seller Central, click the Inventory link and select Add a Product.
2. Run a search for the item you wish to sell. Or ANY product that you know is listed in that category.
3. In the search results, click the Listing Limitations Apply link across from the restricted item.
4. Click the Request Approval button to begin the application process.
To check the status of an application, return to the Add a Product tool and click the To manage your selling applications, click here link located below the search box.
Depending on the category you are requesting approval in, the process that happens after clicking request approval could be slightly different. Try to work through all of the steps and provide the exact materials requested by Amazon.
If you get a message along these lines, then you've been Automatically approved (woohoo!):
“Your selling application is approved. Congratulations! Your selling application for [brand/category name] has been approved based on your performance history.”
If not, you can try again later or follow Amazon's instructions for getting approved with invoices.
Getting Supplier Invoices
If you're trying to use a supplier to apply for category approval, it's important to purchase products that are ALREADY listed on Amazon!
They need to be listed in the category that you want to get approval in.
I suggest looking up the specific products up through Seller Central > Add A Product to find out what category they are in.
When you are looking for products to purchase, it's not important to make sure you will make a profit on the items. Most likely you won't make a profit on the items (or maybe won't even send them in to Amazon). Just make sure to purchase the required quantity and have a qualifying invoice!
Submitting Supplier Invoices to Amazon
When you apply for the selected category, you will need to have the official invoice that comes inside the box — not just a printed copy of what gets emailed to you after the purchase.
You can use your phone to take a picture of the invoice, then submit that image to Amazon.
In some circumstances, you can get your sales rep to give you a PDF of the invoice before your order arrives. The company we recommend in the Toy Ungating Workshop usually does this for us which greatly speeds up the approval process.
The Best Way To Check For Product Restrictions On Amazon
The truth of the matter is Amazon changes restrictions more often than they should! It keeps us on our toes for sure. One day we think a category is gated and then the next it isn't. We try to keep this post updated, but that's still not your most accurate source.
So, how could you possibly know what you can/can't sell?!?
The absolute best way to know for sure is to scan the product with The Amazon Seller App. This will check to see if YOU are eligible to sell the product or not. If you are on your computer, go to add a product and see if there are any restrictions that pop up for the specific item.
If you scan in stores with Scoutify 2, you can even use that to check for restrictions (and request approval) on-the-go!
Here's what's important: know if you're restricted before you buy a product. You never want to be sending in inventory to Amazon that you can't sell. It will just end up in Stranded Inventory and you'll have to pay to have it sent back.
Still Have Questions About Approval? Here Are Some Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get approval if I am a brand new seller?
I've seen brand new sellers get approved as well as get denied. I recommend having some experience under your belt to show Amazon that you are established in your business.
I am private labeling from China, can't I use my invoices?
Unfortunately, Amazon rarely accepts invoices from China to grant approval into these categories. You are better off going about it as we have instructed above.
Can I sell the products I purchase for approval?
Of course! I wouldn't expect to make all of your money back, but I would get as much as you can for them!
Can I only sell products from the wholesaler I used in the invoices?
No, Amazon is not checking your invoices once you have gotten approval. At that point, you can purchase from any legitimate supplier.
Will receipts work from places like Target?
Nope, retail receipts will NOT work for category approval! It needs to be an Invoice, not a Receipt. There's a difference.
Do I need a business license?
Some sellers are asked for a business license during the application process and some are not.
Will I get approved for sure?
I wish there was a guarantee! But even some people who have followed the instructions provided still don't get approval right away. Sometimes it takes submitting your application multiple times in order to get approval.
Can I just pay someone to get me approved?
I would highly advise AGAINST doing this! If Amazon is requesting invoices, you need to actually be purchasing products. Unless the person you are paying is placing actual orders for you, then you are most likely getting forged documents, and I wouldn't submit forged documents to Amazon in my account! I've even heard of sellers getting suspended for using forged documents, so just don't do it!
That's Everything You Need to Know About Amazon's Restricted Categories + Amazon Ungating!
Whew, that was a doozy to write.
So, even though there may be *a lot* of restrictions when it comes to selling on Amazon, there actually is a lot that you can sell without worry about restrictions. You see, many of the “restricted categories” are not really even ones that appeal to many Amazon sellers. With the exception of some subcategories like Toys (which we can help with in our Toy Ungating Workshop), it's just not a big deal!
Once you've got your categories under wraps, you may want to check out our post on restricted brands on Amazon. This is the other place where you will find Amazon restricting your product selections.
How have restrictions affected you in your Amazon business? Let us know in the comments below.
Already Selling On Amazon? Grab OurTop 5 Tools For Savvy Amazon Sellers Checklist!
Make sure you aren't missing out on any of the BEST tools for Amazon Sellers