You find a great product to sell via Amazon FBA. You check out the estimated search volume, look at the competition, and get an idea of how much profit you can make per sale. Things start looking exciting, and you start figuring out how to source the products. Just when you start thinking that everything is in place, you find out that the product is “gated.” Darn!
Table of Contents
- Just What Are Amazon Gated Categories Anyway?
- Why Does Amazon Have Gated Categories?
- Which Categories are Gated by Amazon?
- It’s Not Just the Categories that Are Restricted
- How to Apply for Approval
- Invoices Can Make or Break Approval
- How to Check If Your Application Has Been Approved
- What Should You Do If You Get Rejected?
- Is It Worth All the Trouble to Get Approved?
Just What Are Amazon Gated Categories Anyway?
While you can sell a wide variety of products on Amazon without any issues, there are several categories on Amazon that are restricted to specific sellers. Gated categories (also called Amazon restricted categories) are product categories that require approval from Amazon. Each product category has a specific set of criteria you need to meet in order to get approval.
Why Does Amazon Have Gated Categories?
While dealing with Amazon gated categories is frustrating, Amazon actually does have legitimate reasons for blocking the average seller from selling products in certain categories. The company cares about its reputation and wants sellers that sell high-quality goods, can provide adequate customer support, has a track record of providing a positive customer experience, and has the capacity to deliver on large volume orders.
For example, if you want to sell products in the Automotive and Powersports category, you must meet the following criteria:
- Your account has to be on the professional selling plan.
- The product images must be compliant and are able to be reviewed on a separate site.
- You have to provide UPCs for products under major brands.
- You have to have a website for your online automotive store.
Another example is the toys & games category. It is gated only during the holiday season. Amazon wants professional sellers that have proven themselves to be capable of delivering on orders without any problems. They want your pre fulfillment cancellation rate to stay within 1.75 percent the month before the holiday season starts. They also want your late shipment rate to stay within four percent. Defects should also not exceed one percent.
Which Categories are Gated by Amazon?
First of all, Amazon has removed many of the restrictions that were set for certain categories. So if you found that a category was restricted before, you should check it again. At this moment, Amazon is restricting the following top-level categories:
- Automotive & Powersports
- Collectibles (Books, Coins, Entertainment, Sports)
- Fine Art
- Gift Cards
- Grocery & Gourmet Food
- Major Appliances
- Music, Video, DVD & Blu-Ray
- Toys & Games (during the holiday season)
It’s Not Just the Categories that Are Restricted
That means that you can sell any product as long as it doesn’t fall into the gated categories, right? Wrong! Amazon also has other restrictions that you need to be aware of. There are gated sub-categories inside unrestricted categories. You need to drill down the top-level category to see if your product falls into a sub-category that is gated.
There are also brands that require approval before you can sell them. Imagine seeing a large inventory of Levi’s jeans being sold wholesale for rock bottom price. You’re thinking, “Awesome, I can make a pretty penny selling these on Amazon.” Just when you go on Seller Central to do some research, you find out that you need permission to sell products under Levi’s brand.
Restrictions also extend to the condition of the product. For example, I remember finding an amazing deal for a lot of refurbished iPhones. Sadly, I found that you needed the approval to sell refurbished smartphones on Amazon. This kind of restriction also applies for used products and returned (like new) products as well. There are some great opportunities with refurbished tech products, but you have to get approval before you make the leap. Here’s a handy list provided by Amazon.
Finally, there are restricted products that either cannot be sold at all or require special approval from Amazon. These products usually come with health risks or are downright illegal. Products with any level of alcohol (unless you are a pre-approved wine seller) and products like speed radar jammers are perfect examples.
It’s important to note that Amazon is constantly adding, changing, or removing restrictions to various categories and sub-categories. That’s why you wanted to check in on the Seller Central forums regularly and constantly check the categories for the products you are selling or intending on selling.
How to Apply for Approval
Now that you have a good idea of how the restricted categories on Amazon work, it’s time to walk you through the application process. To start, log in to Seller Central. Then look for the specific products you want to sell and try to list them on Amazon. Don’t worry about having these products in stock. The goal is to go through the process of listing them to see if there are any restrictions in place.
If you need approval, you can go through the following steps:
- Go to the Inventory tab and select add a product.
- Find the specific product you want to sell.
- Look for the link that says “listing limitations apply” and click on it.
- Click on the “Request Approval” link.
- Go through the application form that is provided to you.
- Upload your product images to see if they pass Amazon’s requirements.
Invoices Can Make or Break Approval
It’s important to know that invoices can determine whether or not you get approved to sell the product. In fact, it’s probably one of the most common causes of rejection. Your invoices are basically the order information sent to you by the product supplier. The point of this is to help Amazon determine whether or not your products are authentic.
Here is a list of things you want to do for your invoice to increase your chances of approval:
- Make sure the company name on the invoices matches the company name for your Amazon Seller Central account.
- Avoid forwarding Amazon your email invoices. They want a paper copy of the invoice sent from your supplier.
- Pro forma invoices and receipts will not work. The reason why is because they can be canceled or faked.
- Invoices must be printed. They cannot be handwritten by the supplier.
- Make sure that your invoice is legible. Take high-quality photos of the paper invoice.
- Make sure that the products are listed on the invoice. It also helps to write the ASIN down by hand on a separate piece of paper and attach it with your submission.
- Your physical address, phone number, supplier’s address, and supplier’s phone number needs to be on the invoice.
- The address on the invoice must match the one in your Seller Central account.
- Submit invoices as soon as possible as they need to be recent. If you want too long, you need to get a newer invoice.
How to Check If Your Application Has Been Approved
So you’ve gone through the application process and followed through on everything that was asked of you. Now what? It really is a waiting game. Amazon will contact you on whether or not you’ve been approved to sell products in the category.
If you want an overview of what categories you can sell products in, log in to Seller Central and go through the following steps:
- Go to the Inventory tab.
- Select add a product.
- Click the “selling application status” link.
- This should return a list of categories you’ve gotten approval for.
What Should You Do If You Get Rejected?
First of all, you want to make sure you dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Before submitting everything required in the application, you want to double-check, triple-check, even quadruple-check that you’ve provided everything they’ve asked for, followed all their guidelines, and made everything easy for the Amazon staff to understand. The reason why is because getting rejected can really set you back.
But what do you do if you get rejected anyway? Amazon will not tell you why you’ve been rejected. They don’t want the information to get leaked out as other people can game their system. The only thing you can do is to go over everything again and resubmit your application. Sometimes, they’ll tell you that the decision is final. That can be heartbreaking if you think you’ve found a great opportunity.
Even if they state that it’s a final decision, you should still resubmit your application. You might get a different response depending on who in the Amazon staff is looking at your application. It helps to change up the days and times of submissions to make sure you get a different pair of eyes looking at your application.
Aside from not following instructions in the application process properly, here are some common reasons they may have rejected you:
- Your seller metrics are far from stellar. You have bad reviews, late shipments, product defects, and other problems associated with your account.
- You don’t have a track record of selling products on Amazon yet. If you’re a new seller, you may have challenges getting approved.
- Amazon has been known to reject invoices from suppliers in China. Start working with a domestic supplier until you are approved.
Is It Worth All the Trouble to Get Approved?
If you’ve done your research and found good search volume, low competition, and strong profit margins, you obviously want to go through the effort of getting approval. However, you want to make sure that your chances are good. If you have a bad track record as a seller, don’t waste your time or money as you’ll probably be rejected. If you’re a new seller, start selling in the ungated categories to build up some history.
And if you really intend on doing business on Amazon, you’ll want the experience anyway. You want to know how to go through the whole process so that you know what to do the next time you find a great opportunity in a gated category.
Hopefully, you’ve got a strong idea of how to unlock gated categories on Amazon. I remember being confused about how to navigate the process myself and have made some mistakes along the way. This guide should help you avoid a lot of mistakes and increase your chances of getting approved in the gated categories.
Also published on Medium.