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Selling Toys on Amazon During the Holiday Selling Season

The Online Seller's News, August 26, 2014 - Volume 14, Issue No. 15

Tips, Tools, News and Resources for eBay, Amazon and Online Sellers
by: Skip McGrath

In This Issue:

Musings from eBay, Amazon and The World Wide Web

  1. Selling Toys on Amazon During the Holiday Selling Season
  2. Another Way To Private Label Products for eBay and Amazon
  3. A Keyword Tool for Amazon That Really Works
  4. ePacket Continues to Threaten eBay and Amazon Sellers
  5. eBay Fall Policy Release
  6. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

"The moment somebody says to me, ‘This is very risky,’ is the moment it becomes attractive to me." ~ Kate Capshaw


Musings from eBay, Amazon, and beyond

Not every seller knows this but there are dozens of brands that are restricted on Amazon. What happens is you buy some of these products and when you attempt to list them you learn they are restricted. I have asked Amazon for the list several times, but their answer is always "…we don't give out the list but if you email us the name of the brand you want to sell, we will tell you if it is restricted."

Well that is a bit of a pain, but it turns out that Jessica Larrew somehow got a copy of the list and you can see it on her blog. Here is the link.


Professional review of your Amazon listings: A couple of months ago I met Brad DeGraw first in a Facebook Group and then we met in person later. Brad has an interesting service. He provides a telephone review of your Amazon listings. Although I am pretty good at doing listings, I took advantage of Brad's service and learned several things I was doing wrong. Here is his website, but the best way to contact him is email him at degraw.brad@gmail.com. He will quote you a price for his service. Be sure and mention my name as he treats my readers really well.


I am appearing at this year's CES Show that Jim Cockrum is putting on in Dallas on September 4 - 6th. I will be speaking about winning the buy box on Amazon. And then -watch this space for an announcement about another seminar I will be doing early next year in Las Vegas.

Also - I was interviewed last week on Talking Business Radio. Here is a link if you would like to listen.


Here is a recent announcement from Amazon that affects International sellers.

If you're an international Seller and need help understanding international taxes, Amazon has just launched a new resource with third-party tax advisors providing tax advisory and compliance services to help you understand the tax implications of international selling.

Visit the External Tax Advisors help page. (sign-in required)

External Tax Advisors provide end-to-end services to help you address the tax implications of selling in the EU and/or North America.

EU Tax Advisors can provide VAT advisory and compliance services in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and UK. Services offered by External Tax Advisors include:

  • VAT registration in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and UK

  • VAT filing in above countries at appropriate intervals

  • Hourly tax consulting services

  • Support in multiple languages including English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish

North America Tax Advisors can provide sales and use tax advisory and compliance services in the US and Canada. Services offered by External Tax Advisors include:

  • Sales tax registration in all US states and Canadian provinces

  • Sales tax filing in US and Canada at appropriate intervals

  • Hourly tax consulting services

  • Support in multiple languages including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese

Please be aware that Amazon is providing these listings solely as a resource to our sellers. If you elect to retain a tax advisor, you will be contracting directly with that tax advisor, which will be providing services to you at your direction. Amazon does not provide tax advisory or compliance services and does not endorse the services of any tax advisor.


I am a big fan of Feedback Genius because it really helps me not only build my feedback faster on Amazon; it can also help you get product reviews. Feedback Genius is owned by Seller Labs. Feedback Genius is only one of their products, they also have a research tool and they are launching an Amazon inventory listing and management tool.


Let's get started with this month’s articles:

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1. Selling Toys on Amazon During the Holiday Selling Season

I am not big on the toy category for the simple reason that it's extremely competitive and the margins tend to be small. But, that is not true during the holiday selling season. For the past few years I have been following Jenni Hunt's advice. Every year about this time Jenni publishes a holiday toy guide. And I have never lost money following Jenni's advice.

Jenni normally publishes the toy guide in October, but this year she is giving early access to "family and friends." Since I am a friend, I talked her into letting my readers in -and as a bonus you get a $20 discount as well. Now this will only be open for a few days, so, go here to read about the guide and order it.

The other thing you need to know about selling toys is that Amazon has some restrictions regarding selling during the holiday season (but eBay does not). Here is an announcement I recently received from Amazon.

To maintain a great customer experience this holiday season, we are announcing the holiday selling guidelines for the Toys & Games store.

Effective November 18, 2014, only sellers who meet the following criteria will be eligible to sell in the Toys & Games category from November 18, 2014 through the first week in January 2015.

Your first sale on Amazon.com must be prior to September 18, 2014. The sale does not need to be specific to the Toys & Games store.

You must have processed and shipped at least 25 orders from September 1 through October 31, 2014. The orders do not need to be specific to the Toys & Games store.

Your pre-fulfillment cancel rate for the period from October 1 through October 31, 2014 must be no greater than 1.75%.

Your late shipment rate for the period from October 1 through October 31, 2014 must be no greater than 4%.

Your order defect rate must be no greater than 1% short term as of November 1, 2014.

Orders that use Fulfillment by Amazon will not be subject to the above criteria provided your account is in good standing.

Webstore 1.0 sellers are subject to these guidelines (if you do not have a drop down box with your Webstore name at the top right of the page in Seller Central, then you are a Webstore 1.0 seller).

You can find your cancel rate, late shipment rate, and order defect rate referred to above in the Performance section of your seller account. If your account does not meet the above criteria, we encourage you to take corrective action now so that you can participate in and have a successful holiday selling season.

Eligibility for selling in the Toys & Games store is determined separately for each country. If you sell in multiple marketplaces, your accounts will be evaluated for each country.

We will provide final notification about your eligibility to sell in the Toys & Games store by November 12, 2014. Beginning November 18, 2014, we will monitor the performance and listings of sellers who are approved to sell in Toys & Games during the holiday season. Amazon Services reserves the right to cancel listings, remove selling privileges, and prohibit the sale of specific products to maintain a great customer shopping experience.

Here are some steps you can take to remain eligible to sell in Toys & Games throughout the holiday season:

Monitor your metrics and take corrective action when necessary.

Utilize Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) to ship products to customers.

Check your orders frequently in the Manage Orders section of your account.

Minimize order cancellations; only show inventory for sale that you have available to ship.

Ship orders and confirm shipment in a timely manner.

Ensure your seller policies are up to date.

If you work with outside drop-shippers, solidify their SLA commitments for providing prompt shipping confirmation.

Thank you for selling on Amazon.

Regards,

Amazon Services

Notice the sentence I marked in bold type. As long as you sell in FBA and your first sale (of any item -not just toys) on Amazon was before September 1, 2014 then you can sell in the toy category. The other thing that is interesting about toys is if you cannot find a wholesale source, you can often find great deals with Retail Arbitrage. As an example, last year during December I made over $2000 profit on toys I bought from Costco in November.

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2. Another Way To Private Label Products for eBay and Amazon

Back in July I wrote an article about getting trademarks for private label products. Private labeling is one way to guarantee you win the buy box on Amazon and it keeps others from jumping onto your listings because once you get a trademark registered, you can register your brand on Amazon. Here is a link to the article from July.

But there is another way to private label without getting a trademark. I refer to getting a trademark as the "official" way to private label. But there is also the "unofficial" way to do things.

It may surprise you, but there is no law that says you cannot make up a company name, use it on your product, and not trademark it. In fact lots of sellers do this all the time.

The downside to this method is that you cannot protect your brand name. If someone lists under you or infringes on your name there isn't much you can do. But in reality when someone sees you have a logo and a brand name they usually tend to avoid doing that because most people think all brand names are protected, but in fact they are not unless they are trademarked.

Here is an example: This is a piece of generic jewelry that I buy from China. Notice the brand name Florent right above the title. That is just a made up brand name.

Here is another one. This is a holster that I buy from a company that allows private labeling.

When I ship that to the customer it has an insert on the holster package that looks like this:

Shark Gun Leather is nothing more than a made up brand name. But it has been doing well and I have three other products in this brand so I am actually thinking of trade marking it soon.

The key to doing this, of course, is to source either generic products or branded products that the manufacturer will let you private label. But it is a good strategy to win the buy box on unique products.

Here is a link to a presentation about private labeling that was given at the SCOE conference last week.

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3. A Keyword Tool for Amazon That Really Works

Last week at the annual SCOE (Amazon Sellers Conference) I discovered a new vendor with a great new tool. The company is Merchant Words, and they make an excellent Amazon keyword tool that I have tested and it works.

I signed up on the spot and that evening in the hotel room, I tried it out on a few slow selling products. And Bang! When I got up the next morning I had a sale on a product that had not sold in over 3 months. Since then I have been going through my listings changing and updating my keywords and I have seen a definite increase in sales on those items I have changed.

Here are some screenshots of a few searches

I am not an affiliate nor have any financial interest in this company, but I have been so impressed with the results I thought I should share this with my readers. And here is the best part. Merchant Words normally costs $30 a month -but they have offered my readers a special deal at $9 a month for as long as you stay - no time limit. Click here to get the special deal.

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4. ePacket Continues to Threaten eBay and Amazon Sellers

Last year I wrote about ePacket and how it's hurting sellers. If you don't know what ePacket is, it's a program that was set up between the US Postal Service (USPS) and China Post. It allows a seller in China to ship a one-pound package from China to Los Angeles and then it enters the USPS who delivers it to the US address via first class mail - But here is the catch - The cost to do this is only $5.00.

A couple of years ago I used to sell remote control boats and cars on Amazon and eBay. I did really well with them. I found an importer in Alameda California, that I bought from and I could more than double my price on eBay and Amazon and they sold really well. At the time, my most popular product was a speedboat that cost me $14 wholesale and I was selling on Amazon for $32.95. But once the ePacket program launched, my sales dried up. I looked on Amazon and the actual manufacturer or the product was selling it on Amazon for $17.95 with free shipping. The reason they could do this was ePacket.

Last week at the SCOE conference in Seattle, my good friend Jose Calero who is somewhat of an expert in ePacket gave a presentation about the program. I got a copy of his material and have placed it on a page on my website. Here is a link where you can see the material.

The bottom line is that ePacket hurts American online sellers. What in the world was our government thinking when they set up a program to help China sell more goods into the US at prices that undercut us? And it's supported with our tax dollars. The USPS is supposed to be self-sustaining, but every year it loses money. In just the past quarter the USPS reported a $2 Billion loss -and guess who pays for that?

Here is an example of a listing from a Chinese seller:

Notice is says free shipping. What is does not say is that shipping takes 18 days. And if you want to return it, you have to ship it back to China, which will cost you about $40. A few years ago these same helicopters used to sell on Amazon in the $30 range -now they are all over the place for under $20

If there ever was an issue you should write your congressperson about, this is it. If you go to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ you can find your congress person's name and contact info and actually connect to a form to send them an email. For the US Senate the link is http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

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5. eBay Fall Policy Release

eBay recently announced some system changes for sellers as part of its Fall 2014 seller update.

For once there were no changes to feedback or fees, but the Fall Sellers Release included one big zinger - how you choose to handle your returns.

Starting with the 2015 Holiday selling season, all sellers will be forced into eBay Managed Returns system

The new policy makes it easier for buyers to return items for any reason. So I suspect a lot of sellers will mark their listings as No returns to avoid that.

eBay is also making it easier for buyers to ask sellers questions, request returns, cancel orders and track shipments. They will be able to do this from their purchase history page in their My eBay page. That feature starts in September 2014. And soon after that they will be able to access this service from mobile devices.

Here is a link to more information on these changes.

The other noteworthy change is changes to the Global-shipping program. Buyers in 10 countries will automatically be shown a priority international shipping option with end-to-end tracking on eligible listings that don't already specify international shipping. US sellers ship to a US shipping center where international shipping and customs clearance are handled for you.

Here is what eBay says about the program:

  • Starting in late September, buyers in select countries will be shown an international shipping option with end-to-end international tracking on eligible listings. This option will be shown on listings where the seller hasn't already specified an international shipping service.

  • Note this update does not apply to your listings if you are currently enrolled in the Global Shipping Program or have previously opted out of the program-if so, all of your current preferences will stay the same.

  • Along with the priority international shipping option, buyers will also see import charges. These charges include customs duties for the imported item and brokerage fees used to process the transaction.

  • This international priority shipping option will be automatically applied for countries whose buyers primarily shop on eBay in English: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Singapore, Ireland, South Africa, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, and Mexico.

  • If your item sells to a buyer in one of these countries, you simply ship it to a processing center in the US. Any import charges are collected from the buyer at checkout, and a global shipping provider ships your item on to the international buyer.

  • You're not responsible for any loss or damage during the international leg of the shipment.

  • Additional seller protections include:

    • Eligible for 5-star rating for shipping time when you ship with same-day or one-day handling, upload tracking information within one business day of receiving cleared payment, and the item is delivered to the US shipping center within four business days.

    • Protection from negative or neutral feedback and ratings lower than 5 stars due to loss or damage to your item in international transit. See Terms & Conditions for details. This international shipping option will not be added to your listings for buyers in any countries you have currently excluded in your Shipping Preferences.

You can read the entire Fall Sellers update here. I strongly suggest you do that because there are some details in each part of the announcement that are too detailed to cover here.

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6. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

Since we are getting close to Christmas and we wrote about toys earlier, here are a few toy wholesalers.

Rhode Island Toy & Novelty LLC sells toys and party supplies including stuffed animals, toys, games, teacher supplies, items for fundraisers and more!

MJ Toys sells all the popular brands of scale models - cars, motorcycles, hot wheels, trains, etc.

Jam'n Products features brand name toys from major toy manufacturers like Mattel, Spin Master, Fisher Price, Disney, Hasbro and more. They don't actually show the products on their website but they have a large line of name brand toys and will send you product information if you contact them.

Empire Discount Wholesale Toys is a toy liquidator and one place where there is still time to buy toys for Christmas selling. As some of these toys are out of date, be sure and check the item on eBay and/or Amazon before you buy.

The John Hanson Company is another large wholesale distributor of toys and games including many of the classic games.

New Ray Toys has probably the largest line of die cast models and toys of anyone I have seen.

Now let's look at some other products

The Blond Amsterdam Collection includes the popular "Small Talk" pottery line, as well as a complete new pottery line "Blondelicious" inspired by the nifty fifties. They also sell wallets, make-up bags, towels and original gifts.

Himalayan Salt Lamps sells lamps, salts and other gifts from the Himalaya. Hint - buy the small ones as shipping on the big lamps will kill you.

Roommates sell a line of vinyl wall décor. These are very hot on Amazon and eBay.

Rajasthan Art is an online gallery of Rajasthan Handicrafts, Jewelry, Paintings, Jooties, and Silver Handicrafts. This is their retail website. Us the Contact form to email them for wholesale information.

Mpressions Inc. sells beautiful handcrafted, American made products to specialty stores. Their inspirational framed prints include hand painting, embossing, calligraphy or personalization. There is a link on the page to register as a wholesale buyer. You can click over to their retail page to see their products.

Picnic & Beyond, Inc. sells wooden and willow picnic baskets, picnic: backpacks, coolers, totes, wraps, blankets, wine baskets and bags, BBQ tool sets, coffee bags, gardening tool sets, cooler baskets and bags, wine set collection, folding shopping bags and coolers, and other picnic accessories. You will have to register on the site to see the products and pricing.

Art International is a wholesale distributor of hand-painted oil paintings. They sell both original works and reproductions of famous masterpieces.

Jupiter Wholesale welcomes Amazon & eBay sellers. They wholesale electronics, novelties, vacation products, leather, As Seen on TV items w/ free dropshipping! I don't have any experience with this company and I am always cautious about any dropshipper so do your due diligence before selling any drop ship item with this company. They may be fine -but I just don't know and it pays to be careful.

Station 1 Wholesale sells home decor for your home or store. Products include Jim Shore Hartwood Creek, blue willow glassware, cast iron, kitchen decor, and gifts. We have everything you need for your special decor.

That’s it for now. See you again in a couple of weeks.

Skip McGrath
The Online Seller's News

P.S. If you missed the last issue, click here to read it.


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