On a cold December morning, you find yourself standing in a crowded toy aisle at Target.
Suddenly, you spot THE toy of the season hiding at the back of a shelf. Your heart is racing and your eyes are darting around the aisle. Is this too good to be true?
You grab the toy, toss it in your cart, and rush it home to ship it off to Amazon.
Except, when you go to list it, disaster strikes. There's no Sell Yours button!
What's going on? You've just GOT to sell this toy by Christmas!
It's every Amazon seller's biggest annoyance: product restrictions!
I know how frustrating it is to find a great product, only to discover that you're not allowed to resell it on Amazon.
Even though I've been selling for many years, I still get a little disappointed when I have to pass on a profitable item because it's restricted.
But what's worse than having to pass is when you forget (or don't know how) to check a new item for restrictions before you buy.
Then you’re stuck having to return a bunch of inventory to the store or sell it somewhere else like eBay.
I want to share the easiest ways for you to check on restrictions while you’re sourcing in retail stores or at home.
I’ll also go over the various types of restrictions and what you can do about them.
Why Are Certain Products Restricted on Amazon?
Alright, it’s time to state the obvious. There are a LOT of restricted products on Amazon.
And sometimes new sellers feel like they’re not approved to sell anything!
But, even though it’s frustrating, it’s best to not spend too much time feeling sad about the products you can’t sell. Instead, go look for products that you CAN sell!
You might wonder why there are even restricted products available on Amazon. Or you might notice that there are 50 other sellers on a certain item that you’re not allowed to sell.
Amazon isn’t playing favorites here.
Some sellers with older accounts have been grandfathered in on newly restricted items.
Other sellers may have taken the steps to request approval to sell restricted products (I’ll be telling you more about that later!).
There are a lot of reasons why you might run across a restriction. What’s important to understand is that restrictions vary based on each individual seller’s account.
Now, there are some things that tend to be restricted for most sellers, but it’s still not universal.
What I can share with you today, though, is a little bit more information about the different types of restrictions you’ll come across on Amazon.
Amazon Brand Restrictions
Most of the restrictions you’ll come across will be Brand Restrictions.
This happens when Amazon or the brand owner decides that they don’t want any third-party sellers reselling their products. Or, they might want to limit third-party resellers to only certain approved sellers.
There’s usually a good reason for this kind of restriction.
One recent example is Fingerlings which is made by the brand WowWee. Fingerlings were one of the hottest toys for the 2017 holiday season.
But as often happens with hot toys, a huge amount of counterfeit Fingerlings quickly hit the market.
Amazon really wants to make sure that their customers receive authentic products. To reduce the odds of counterfeit items reaching Amazon, they decided to restrict WowWee products.
So, even though it seems like a bad thing, know that brand restrictions are usually for the greater good. After all, if counterfeit sellers could sell knock-off Fingerlings on Amazon, it would drive the price down anyway.
Amazon Restricted Categories
Instead of restricting certain brands, Amazon will often restrict entire categories.
These are typically “risky” categories like Automotive, Watches, and Jewelry.
Again, Amazon here is concerned with the authenticity of items being resold on their marketplace.
The restricted categories change over time. Amazon may decide to open up a previously restricted category or to restrict a previously ungated (not restricted) category.
So for current information, you can always check this list of Restricted Categories in Seller Central.
Some items are classified as Hazardous Materials (Hazmat). These items aren’t technically restricted products, but they are not allowed to be sent in for Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).
Therefore, it’s as important to know about any Hazmat classifications as it is to know about product restrictions when you’re sourcing inventory.
How to Check Restrictions on Amazon
Now that you understand the common restrictions on Amazon, you’ll need to know how to spot them before you buy new inventory. This will save you a lot of heartache (and a lot of time in the return line!).
Checking Retail Arbitrage Restrictions
Hopefully, you already have a scanning app to use when you’re out in stores. If you don’t, you’ll need to get one to make sure that you’re buying profitable items.
A good scanning app can also serve as a way to check for restrictions.
As you know, my favorite scanning app is Scoutify 2 (included with Inventory Lab). But when it comes to restrictions, the free Amazon Seller App is actually the most reliable tool.
Some of the third-party scanning apps (including Scoutify) do have the option to check for restrictions. But I prefer to use the free Amazon app anyway.
The reason I like the Amazon Seller App the most for restrictions is that it shows both product restrictions and Hazmat alerts.
So even if I’m using Scoutify for the bulk of my sourcing, I still do a quick check in the Amazon Seller App as well.
This doesn’t mean you have to double scan each item in every store! I only use the Amazon Seller App if I’m planning on buying the item.
Obviously, if I’ve scanned something with Scoutify and it has no profit or a bad rank, there’s no need to check for restrictions – I don’t want to sell it anyway!!
So, let’s say you’ve found a winner with Scoutify (or your favorite scanning app). When you scan it with the Amazon Seller App, here’s what you’re looking out for:
So it's really clear that I can NOT sell this product. This one has the Restricted Product banner right over the photo and the red warning symbol under “Selling Eligibility”.
If I click on Selling Eligibility, I'll get a little more information:
So I can’t sell this in any condition. Note that sometimes you might see here that you can’t sell an item Used or Collectible conditions, but you can sell the item New condition (or vice versa). It’s important to check the fine print!!
On this product, I happen to know that I’m dealing with 2 restrictions: A Brand restriction for Fossil and a Category restriction for Watches.
But the restriction will look the same in the Amazon Seller App either way.
A Hazmat notice, on the other hand, will look different.
This is a product that I am approved to sell (you can see that in the Selling Eligibility section). However, that little red circle icon to the right of the product image tells me that something’s going on with this item.
If I click the icon, I get to this next screen:
That’s where I find out that even though I can sell this item, I can’t sell it via the FBA program. That’s because this product is under Hazmat Review.
If you’d like to learn more about Amazon’s procedures for reviewing Hazmat items (and even searching an ASIN to check for Hazmat status), you can find that information in Seller Central: FBA Dangerous Goods Review Process.
Checking Online Arbitrage Restrictions
Scanning apps are great for retail shopping but aren’t as handy when you’re shopping online at home.
Technically you could search for a product in your Seller App while you’re at home, but it’s not very efficient.
Amazon’s “Add A Product” page is a free way to check for restrictions from your computer.
Here’s how that process works.
Say you’re interested in a product that you’ve found online. We’ll use that same Fossil Watch as an example.
Go ahead and copy the ASIN from the Amazon product detail page.
Then, head over to Seller Central. In the Inventory menu, select Add A Product.
Paste the ASIN in the search box under “List a new product” (or you could search for it by name here if needed).
I can see right away that there's not a “Sell Yours” button. Instead, it says “Listing Limitations Apply.” I can click on that link for more details.
As expected, this confirms that I’m restricted in both the category and the brand. So now I know that I can’t sell this product unless I get approval for both of those.
You can repeat this process for every item you find doing OA that you’re interested in selling.
Note that Add A Product will not show you Hazmat information, just product restrictions. You’d have to search for an ASIN separately to check for its Hazmat status using the link I shared earlier (https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/G201749580).
This process is accurate, but it can really slow down your online sourcing.
There’s another way to check for restrictions at home that’s a lot faster than using Add A Product.
My favorite way to check product restrictions is by using the CheckPermission Chrome Extension.
Once you’ve purchased and installed this extension, your restrictions will show right on the Amazon product detail page.
Here’s how that same Fossil watch looks on the Amazon website with this extension running.
Boom. It’s right there in a box on the same page. And it’s conveniently RED to show me that I am not approved to sell this product.
This extension was recently updated to include Hazmat information, too, so you’ll see that information there in the same box!
CheckPermission even works when you’re searching for products on Amazon.com.
Here’s how a search results page for “Paw Patrol” items in the Clothing category looks with the extension running.
Pretty cool, right?
This means I don’t have to bother clicking on the ones with the Red boxes because I know that I’m restricted.
It’s such a simple extension but it’s a huge time saver!
If you do any amount of Online Arbitrage (or even if you just research Retail Arbitrage products at home), you should add this to your toolbox. You can get all of the details right here.
What Can I Do if I'm Restricted?
Just because your Amazon Seller App, Add A Product, or CheckPermission shows that you’re restricted, doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to sell an item.
There are a couple of ways that you can request approval to sell a product that has a brand restriction.
The first is what a lot of sellers refer to as “Automatic Approvals”. It’s by far the easiest approach so we’ll start there.
There is nothing official from Amazon about why this method works. But some sellers report that after a few months of selling with good metrics, they can get automatically approved (ungated) in some brands and subcategories.
This probably won’t work when you’re brand new, but you can give it a shot after a few months or again around the 6-month mark. It’s a very quick process, so it’s worth trying!!
Here’s how it works:
From Inventory > Add a Product, pull up a product that’s restricted to you. In this example, I found a toy with a brand restriction. I can tell that I’m restricted because there’s no “Sell Yours” button. Instead, I’ll click Listing Limitations Apply for more info.
When I do that, I see that it is a brand restriction and that I can Request Approval.
Then I’m taken to a Selling Application page which just basically restates that I’m requesting brand approval for the “Think Fun” brand.
It worked! If you are taken to this page (below), you have been automatically approved. That means that you were approved based on your selling history and you do not have to provide any invoices or other documentation.
If you are NOT taken to the page above, you’ll be taken to a page requesting documentation. This means that Automatic Approval did NOT work. Here’s an example of a brand where I did not get Automatic Approval after hitting “Request Approval”:
But that’s ok, you can always try again in a few more months.
I recommend trying this on as many brands as possible. If you see a restriction, even if you think you won't sell it, go ahead and request approval.
You can also try this method to get approval in restricted subcategories. Here are some ASINs that you can use for automatic subcategory approval on Amazon.
Approval with Invoices
If you don’t get Automatic Approval for a brand but you’d like to sell the product line anyway, you can always try to provide the documentation that Amazon requests. Let’s look at a selling application that did not get automatically approved.
It will always say on this page what Amazon is looking for. Once you have this information, you can try to provide them with the requested documentation.
Ungating for Hot Toy Brands
Many of the hot toy brands are restricted to new sellers. Think big brands like Mattel, Barbie, Lego, Hasbro, Disney, etc.
Because so many sellers want to sell these items (especially during the hot Q4 selling season!), I've created a training that shows you step-by-step how to get ungated using distributor invoices.
The Toy Ungating Workshop methods have successfully helped both new and experienced sellers get quick approval in dozens of popular toy brands.
If you're interested in this training, you can get more information by clicking this link or the image below.
Know Before You Go
I hope this post has helped you see all of your options for checking your restrictions before you buy new inventory.
If you check for restrictions as part of your sourcing workflow it will quickly become a habit. I can't imagine not checking anymore (especially when CheckPermission does it for me!). I know that the one time I forgot to check would be the one time I came home with restricted products!!
Have you ever kicked yourself for forgetting to check your restrictions in advance? Feel free to share your stories in the comments!
What about Automatic Approvals? Have you had good luck with those? I'd love to hear about it!