Update (1005ET): As we detailed below, Amazon was already struggling to meet delivery goals and having problems with stock, but now, in a blog post, Amazon told sellers on Tuesday that it's suspending shipments of all non-essential products to its warehouses to deal with the increased workloads following the coronavirus outbreak.
"We are temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so that we can more quickly receive, restock, and deliver these products to customers," the message said.
That means sellers who use Amazon's storage and delivery network for a fixed fee, through a program called Fulfillment by Amazon, will no longer be able to ship their products to Amazon.
"We are seeing increased online shopping, and as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock."
Additionally, Amazon claims it is trying top crack down on gouging...
"We're also working to ensure that no one artificially raises prices on basic need products during this pandemic and have blocked or removed tens of thousands of items, in line with our long-standing policy. We actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policy."
So, we can't leave our homes and all we can buy online is staples and medical supplies...
Amazon suspending deliveries. Just when you thought today couldn't get worse.— Erika K Nardini (@EKANardini) March 17, 2020
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The online retailer updated its blog post on Saturday and told customers that “we are currently out of stock on some popular brands and items, especially in household staples categories."
It said that certain items could experience longer than normal delivery times.
"We are working around the clock with our selling partners to ensure availability on all of our products, and bring on additional capacity to deliver all of your orders," the post added.
In the last two months, Prime members have noticed notifications saying "inventory and delivery may be temporarily unavailable due to increased demand" for certain products, such as 3M N-95 virus masks. More recently, the shortage of products has significantly expanded to bottled water, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and vitamins. Amazon noted that it has worked extremely hard to crack down on price gouging, especially seen with third-party sellers selling masks and hand sanitizers for many folds over the suggested retail price.
Social distancing has led to the max exodus of shoppers at brick and mortar stores, who have now gravitated to online shopping to prevent spreading.
"As COVID-19 has spread, we've recently seen an increase in people shopping online," Amazon wrote. "In the short term, this is having an impact on how we serve our customers."
Amazon is gearing up for increased online activity as the virus crisis is expected to worsen in the weeks ahead. A Wall Street Journal report on Monday said the online retailer is expected to add 100,000 workers to cope with the surge in new demand.
The virus crisis will forever change how consumers shop. Social distancing will ensure more online shopping. But in the meantime, Amazon has been caught off guard by the rapid surge and will result in shortages of products and shipping delays.