Partly shedding the narrow focus on essential items it adopted in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon.com (AMZN 3.15%) intends to start allowing deliveries of non-essential goods to its warehouses sometime later this week. To ensure essential products remain prioritized, and to help with worker safety measures, only limited quantities of nonessentials will be let back in initially.
Food and pantry items, pet food, products related to medical needs, and paper goods -- such as toilet paper and cleansing wipes -- were among the essentials Amazon allowed third-party sellers to sell for Amazon fulfillment during the past few weeks. Most warehouse space will continue to be allocated to these categories, but electronics, books, DVDs and CDs, sports equipment, and other products will start edging back in shortly.
Amazon's planned hiring of 75,000 more workers, on top of the 100,000 it already added during the pandemic, could help ease the transition back to more diversified offerings. These employees, many temporary, are needed to deal with a rush of orders resembling a busy holiday shopping season in volume, if not in actual items purchased. CommerceIQ says toilet paper sales alone shot up 186% from late February to late March.
The move could provide relief and sales for third-party sellers on Amazon, who typically make up more than half of its sales through e-commerce. About 36% of these merchants have been forced to adapt in various ways to the unprecedented circumstances, as reported by Internet Retailer research. Amazon employees are less pleased, fearing increased exposure to potential COVID-19 infection, including during the process of restocking items, with some workers complaining about the risks, according to Bloomberg.