Solar Eclipse turns boom to bust for some Amazon merchants

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Retailers in the UK may be unaware, but there’s a total solar eclipse coming on the 21st of August which will sweep across the US from Oregon to South Carolina. Naturally this has sparked a selling frenzy of solar ‘eclipse glasses’ which are supposed to protect your eyes from damage caused by staring at the sun.

Unfortunately for many sellers what was a sales bonanza has turned into a financial nightmare. Amazon have refunded thousands of customers who purchased eclipse glasses that the marketplace hasn’t been able to authenticate as coming from a certified manufacturer. They’ve also warned customers not to use the glasses.

Worse news still for sellers whose customers have been refunded (without any requirement to return the product) is that existing stock held in Amazon’s FBA warehouses has been frozen so is no longer available to sell on alternative venues. Amazon are also putting holds on seller funds to cover reimbursing customers who have received a refund.

Naturally sellers are frantic and even those who have tried to provide Amazon with authentication information are concerned about the level of refunds they may be facing as well as the prospect of Amazon not giving their product the OK until the eclipse is done and dusted. It’s highly unlikely that retailers will be able to shift their stock of eclipse glasses – the next next North American total solar eclipse won’t occur until 2024!

We’ve seen similar instances before of sellers riding the crest of a sales wave only to see their business end in disaster. A similar set of circumstances occurred in 2015 when hoverboard’s started exploding.

Naturally retailers are going to chase the money and the latest craze is always going to result in mega-sales, so when Amazon clamp down on a popular product the results are devastating for those sellers involved. From Amazon’s perspective they have two concerns, one is are the products certified and secondly are the products genuine or could they be inferior counterfeits.

There is very little that can be done once you’re trapped in the frozen stock, frozen funds, buyer refund scenario so the best advice has to be to do your due diligence beforehand. If you spot a gap in the market and are going to order vast quantities of a particular product make sure that you have all the necessary certifications ahead of purchasing the stock and ensure that you have proof that you’ve purchased genuine product that you can instantly produce should Amazon require it. Whilst Amazon FBA is undoubtedly going to generate a boost to sales consider if it’s wise to place all of your stock in Amazon’s own warehouse where it could be frozen. You need to be doubly concerned if you’re sourcing a product which is either white label or rebranded as your own product.

This is a desperately sad situation for the merchants involved, many of whom invested heavily in stock and staff to process orders. It’s hard to suggest any advice but they have our sympathies.

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