You’ll have to get your products ready for shipment and storage at an Amazon FC (Fulfillment Center).
This is called Preparation or Prep.
What and how much you will have to do will depend on the product, and how you’ve decided to manage your inventory. You will be labeling, bagging, boxing and generally protecting your items for storage and shipment.
You can also outsource some or all of this prep to a 3rd-party service or Amazon. We don’t use a service, and I’ll tell you why later in this section.
You can keep your inventory stored at Amazon in 2 ways: co-mingled, or separate.
Co-mingled means your inventory is stored in the same bins as everyone else’s.
The advantage of co-mingling is that you’ll have less prep to do. You normally won’t have to put additional labels on the product, and can rely on the existing UPC or ISBN bar codes for identification.
The disadvantage is that it’s possible your sale will be fulfilled with someone else’s stock. The only problem with that is that they might not have been as thorough in prep as you, and the customer might receive an item in poor condition.
We originally opted for co-mingling because it meant less prep. When you’re on the road enjoying Freedom By Amazon, lots of prep is not what you look forward to.
But, as we went along and asked for customer returns to be returned to us, we discovered the hazards I mentioned, and now we do not co-mingle.
That does mean that we have to label most everything with our own labels and can’t rely on the existing barcodes. But, the protection we enjoy is worth the peace of mind.
We label with our FNSKU which is assigned by Amazon when we choose FBA. You can print labels from your Inventory / Manage Inventory, and then Print Item Labels in the Edit menu or in the Action on X items.
You can set your preference for co-mingling in your Settings / Fulfilled By Amazon / FBA Product Barcode Preference.
The choice of “Manufacturer’s Barcode” means you will be co-mingling. The choice of “Amazon Barcode” means you will label each product and Amazon will keep your products separate from other Sellers.
Sometimes, you won’t have a choice. Amazon, for whatever reason, might require an Amazon barcode, regardless of your desire.
Prepping Individual Products
For existing products you get from Retail or Online Arbitrage or Wholesale, assuming no co-mingling, you will need to apply an Amazon barcode to every product you will be sending in. Each item should only have ONE barcode.
This barcode is created in your Manage Inventory and will print on a standard 1 x 2-5/8 inch address label, either on the 30-up single pages for laser or ink-jet printers, or on the continuous thermal labels for those printers.
The full page label is an Avery 5160 or 5260 or other brand equivalent.
In Inventory / Manage Inventory, select the item(s), and in the Actions pulldown, choose Print Item Labels. You will be asked how many labels of each item to print.
You will be warned that you need to cover existing Barcodes. Click OK.
When you “Print Item Labels” you will get a PDF file downloaded full of the item barcodes. Know where your downloaded files are stored so you can open it and print them out.
If you print less than 30 labels, you will end up with a partial page of blanks. Don’t throw the left-over blank labels away. You can reverse the page and print however many are left. We normally print full pages for each item (we carry inventory.)
We can also toss a partial page in a regular print-run and get those blanks used up.
The rule is that existing barcodes must be covered with this Amazon label. Normally, this is straightforward. Just carefully affix the label to cover the existing code. Make it look professional.
We’ve had some products that required a blank label in addition to the Amazon barcode because there were large or multiple barcodes.
Sometimes, the item might be in a polybag and the actual item “floats” inside the bag. In this case, you will either have to open the bag to cover the barcode, or secure the item inside the bag in some way to prevent it from moving around. We’ve successfully “taped” the outside of the bag in such a way that the item is secure inside.
Amazon requires that any poly-bags be at least 1.5 mil thick. They require them to be clear (unless your products are in the Adult categories).
They also require that any poly-bags with openings larger than 5-inches have a Suffocation Warning on it.
You can purchase bags with the warning already on them, or you can print up labels with the Caution on them and sticker using less expensive blank bags.
Where to get poly-bags? Why Amazon, of course.
Alternative sources are www.uline.com, and a new source we found at a recent ASD trade show in Las Vegas.
This new source of great poly-bags is I Love Supplies. Go to www.ILoveSupplies.com. This husband-wife team has plenty of Amazon experience, and needed better poly-bags than they could get through the usual sources. They get them custom-made to their specs which also exceed Amazon requirements.
Their poly-bags come in several often-used sizes. They are 2.0 mil thick, have a Suffocation Warning in 3 languages, and a nifty peel-and-stick strip for closure. They are fairly reasonable in price, too.
You can get a free sample selection from them, www.ilovesupplies.com.
How do you seal the bags up?
If you’re getting your bags from I Love Supplies, then you just peel and stick to close.
If you get them somewhere else,you might need one of several options.
With an Impulse Sealer like the one you can see here: , you can seal the bags and trim any excess plastic. You can also use this sealer with shrink wrap material.
Here is a shrink-wrap station that puts plastic film around the item:
You can also use a clothing iron to seal. Be sure to protect the iron with a layer of paper, and set the iron on a fairly low setting.
The other way to seal the bags is to use tape. We use the same clear packing tape we also use for sealing our shipping boxes.
Prepping Bundles and Multi-packs.
If you have created a bundle or a multi-pack product, you will absolutely have to prep the product. There is no other option.