I am not cheering the virus and its devastation, deaths, illness, or economic disaster.
Fortunately, Sandi and I are still personally unaffected by the virus. The farm routines, the dogs and walking them, the limited shopping — nothing really different despite Oregon’s lock-down policies.
I am woo-hoo-ing our Amazon business happenings because of the virus.
Our April sales were the best we’ve had in 2 years. Not the best April, but the best ever month, far exceeding both the previous Decembers. Decembers are usually 2-3 times our average other months. April beat them handily.
In my last post, I shared Amazon’s decision to restrict FBA inbounds to “essential items” only. I opined that we were toast for the time-being.
Well, I was wrong.
Turns out that when people have to stay home, they need things to do. And they go shopping on Amazon. Our FBA sales took off in a couple of the niche categories we deal in.
We quickly sold out.
What to do?!?!
We have inventory here, but can’t send it in.
We can list these same items as FBM (Fulfilled By Merchant) and continue to sell them. Don’t need no steenkeen FBA…
So, we Added a New Condition for those items selling well. We also added a new Shipping Template so we could charge appropriately for shipping. As these things started flying off the shelf, we also adjusted the prices. No price gouging, just taking advantage of the market demand.
As our stock dwindled, we re-ordered as we could. One of our suppliers was totally out of what we were selling. They still don’t expect to get restocked until June.
Another vendor was able to restock us once. Then we had slim pickings. We even bought from some of their Costco returns inventory. (Brand new, but with a buy-back agreement.) Now, again, those best sellers are nowhere to be found, and no estimated date of arrival.
Since we were now doing all the picking and packing of orders, purchasing and applying shipping labels, and getting those orders to the Post Office or UPS, we had a supplies problem.
We don’t normally stock many boxes or padded envelopes for customer orders. We do FBA. So we immediately began ordering from Uline.com what we thought we needed.
When we were packing 100+ orders a day, whatever we ordered from them disappeared in a poof!
As I posted on a FaceBook page I belong to, in “normal times” it is difficult to forecast needs. In this turned upside down days, it is Impossible. We just order as we can and as we think will last us for at least a few days.
We went though 8 reams of paper and a full set of laser printer toners just to print the packing slips.
We also had to start dealing directly with customer returns. In spite of trying to triple-check what and who, we got some orders wrong. We went “Andromeda Strain” blind. (Great and relevant movie from 1971. Look it up.) or “Nose blind” as the commercial says.
We got inventory available counts wrong. (Count 1, 2, 3, 4… Enter 7.)
So we had to reach back to our eBay heyday of 2010-2012 and put together protocols, SOPs, and customer reply text so we could deal with the overwhelm we experienced.
Our living room became our warehouse and shipping room. We still have a pile of vendor boxes littering the walkways.
We still get to walk the dogs as they request. We miss our naps and free time. But we learned that even in our advanced age, we are able to overcome and adapt to changes in the marketplace.
Regardless of your place in the race to Freedom By Amazon, always be ready to change what and how you do business. Not in a herky-jerky way, but thoughtful based on what’s happening in your marketplace.