FBA Shipping to Multiple Amazon Fulfillment Centers

amazon.FBA.solosparkAmazon FCs (Fulfillment Centers) are insanely busy places. The US has Amazon FC warehouses in at least 14 states and this grows all the time. As a seller, each of your items will be directed to a certain warehouse within the listing process, and quite often the items will be directed to ship to multiple FCs.

This  aspect of selling FBA can become annoying and confusing.  Amazon has multiple Fulfillment Centers (warehouses), and you will be directed to send each item to a certain one.  What you might have assumed was one shipment can become splintered and directed to many warehouse locations.  In their eyes, Amazon does still consider this one shipment, regardless the number of boxes or number of warehouse destinations.

Of a shipment of say 30+ items, Amazon will likely direct you to ship them to 3 or more warehouses. 

Amazon does this in order to be in the position to ship the item to customers quickly.  Amazon will base that decision on past sales history of the item.  This is based on their metrics of where they believe that item is most likely to sell, which helps keep shipping costs down and allows faster shipping.  If the item is new to FBA, it is based on sales history of similar items.

Sellers may not understand whatever advanced algorythms are used for these decisions, but in the end the purpose is faster sales and shipping times.  It’s about availability – having products available in many warehouses all around the country.

While your logic might assume the shipment will go to the closest warehouse, this is NOT so.  In fact, I know of sellers who live right down the street from a warehouse and rarely if ever does their inventory get directed there!  Instead they have to ship hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

So 3 identical items will likely ship to 3 different cities.  Do not stress over this if you think that it makes no sense. Maybe not, but it doesn’t matter. Amazon owns the ballfield, the brand name and the equipment – they allow FBA sellers to play ball (sell) there. Accept their rules or don’t, but stressing or complaining about them won’t get you anywhere.

While there are many advantages to the FBA Selling Program, Amazon makes the rules. Sellers must abide by Amazon FBA policies. Ignore them at your own risk, for some sellers have been banned from the FBA Program.  The bottom line is that you are not required as a seller to ship anything at all until you hit “approve shipment” so you are in control.  Read to the end for more alternatives.

Split Shipments CAN change over time.

The direction of your items to various warehouses has a lot to do with current supply and demand.  This changes daily with the huge volume of Amazon sales.  So if one day your items are directed to X warehouse, do not assume that will be the same tomorrow.  At any point prior to approving shipment, that destination may change.  Sometimes just waiting awhile to hit ‘approve’ will result in a better situation.

Alternatives? Yes, there ARE ways around this multiple shipping.  One of them is called Inventory Placement

You can pay Amazon per item to ship everything to the same warehouse. Log in to Amazon Seller Central, then search for Inventory Placement Services to find this option. This fee was 30 cents per item, but is now charged by weight after Feb 2014 fee changes.

HOWEVER, if you use the above option, here’s what will happen:
Your items will ship to one warehouse, then likely hop on a semi to be sent elsewhere. It wastes time which is money, but it’s an option. Your items will take longer to be listed so will be ‘inactive’ while all of this additional shipping is taking place. Also additional shipping means additional risk for damage while your box is getting pitched around.

So if you choose the option above, then on top of usual FBA seller fees, you will pay even higher fees for ‘inactive’ inventory.  There will be delays,  multiple shippings and higher merchant fees.

How to decide on this FBA shipping option:

You might consider making this decision based on volume. If you new to FBA or you are are not shipping out a lot (only a few items a week) you may save by going to only one warehouse. It costs in time and money but but might save your sanity for now.

Some find it to be cheaper and simpler to pay the fee in order to ship in one box over the expense and hassle to deal with multiple shipments.  Some sellers paid the fee for the first month or two, then changed once more familiar with work flows.  You are not charged right away, and some sellers were shocked to suddenly find fee charges that were significantly high.   Remember that the new fee policy is charged by weight, so especially for larger items, these fees can add up quickly.

Other Ways to Manage Multiple Shipping Destinations without Extra Fees

Most FBA pro-sellers DO ship out a large volume of items.  Some say they feel benefit in the end by letting Amazon direct shipments due to higher sales Amazon tends to direct their shipments to generally only about three Fulfillment Centers.  However I’ve heard of many more and one lady even reported that here one shipment was directed to NINE warehouses.  Nine?  That’s insane!

My max is three.  I rarely ship more than three directions.   Many FBA trainings have to been upated to relect newer methods.   Often these are against new shipping policy for Amazon FBA.

The Old Workflow ==>: Keep 3 boxes of merchandice going at all times, and then ship when box is full. Then just wait til you have enough items to be worth a shipment to that FC (Fulfillment Center).

Clarity about a ONE item shipment:  Amazon expects your entire shipment within 7 days.  This includes any of just ONE item.  You can NOT just save it or simply cancel that shipment, despite advice to the contrary from man sources – this is NOT correct.  Amazon has recently changed policies and as of March 31st all sellers are required to operate under the newer workflow plan.

If your item something small like a DVD, you MIGHT save some money by shipping via USPS first class or media mail, but you DO have to ship it.  I tried this once and found USPS media mail rates to be nearly identical to the UPS rates for FBA merchants, so never did it again.

Direct from Amazon about shipping to multiple Fulfillment Centers:

“To avoid inbound issues, please adhere to the following requirements:
•Send each shipment in the associated plan. Do not delete or ignore these shipments.
•All shipments in a plan are expected to be received within seven days.
•Ship all related shipments in a plan at the same time.”

Amazon Updates

There’s an old VS new shipping plan now, and as of April 1st 2014 all sellers are governed by the newer one.  This is  can be confusing when learning from older tutorials that have not been updated.  Older shipping plans DID allow such practices as deleting or saving items for future shipments, but this is no longer the case.

How to Manage Shipments and Avoid the Mess

As long as deletions or changes are made PRIOR to clicking the  ‘Approve Shipment’ tab, then items may still be deleted or changed.  SO if the seller does not like some of the ways items are directed, they CAN be deleted in that mode.

For example, now and then I find that a single item is directed for shipment by itself, or maybe only two.   In that case, I delete those before approving shipment.  Then just save that item and include it in the next shipment.  Shipping single items alone is costly and for me, deletes the entire value of using the FBA merchant plan.  Usually this works fine, and the single item gets included with a reasonable sized group of items in the next batch.

Make sense?  Helpful to know?  Shout out in the comments below and also include other related issues or questions.  Thanks.

 

Carolan

Carolan Ross

CFO(Chief Fun Officer) at SoloSpark
Freelance writer, creative soul, solopreneur and former teacher who networks with rebels, visionaries, artists and other square pegs in round holes. I support solopreneurs with copywriting and juggling life and business to SHINE ONLINE!

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks Carolan! This was helpful. I kept thinking there was a better alternative to sending to many locations, but you bring up a great point. They are sent to different locations to ship out and that’s what you want too so may as well. The workarounds are great as well.

    • says

      Yes, I investigate possibilities on ‘workarounds’ and a few possible alternatives do exist. One is to pay extra for inventory placement, which I do not do (enough fees already). I do not usually use the ‘Scan & Ship’ method but in some cases that can be a workaround, especially with large quantities of one item (20 or more).

      • says

        I’ve been told this works ^^ with large quantities of one SKU, however others say it does not. It occurs to me the very reason Amazon deems some items as an ‘add-on’ to prevent the shipping expense of sending one small item alone, and yet sellers are expected to do the same. How’s about an ‘add on’ Amazon? Still a bit baffled sometimes with this issue, have found a few workarounds but it remains an ongoing pain. I held a shipment yesterday for same reason, could have been in transit by now but will need to change up some things. My first attempt did not work.

  2. Mike says

    Setting up my first shipment and it’s directing the shipment to 6 different locations! This is crazy. I don’t have a ton of items. Amazon it making this whole process such a hassle.

    • Carolan Ross says

      Six, that’s unusual wow… I rarely have more than 3. It IS a hassle. I’d check back in a few hours or tomorrow to see if that changes, often it does. If one one or two items get directed to ship alone, I delete them and include in next shipment. I find shooting for at least 30-50 items per shipment works well. Any less and shipping not very cost effective. Any more risks errors.

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