This is my second post discussing Amazon FBA prep guidelines. Over the next few weeks I will continue to discuss the ins and outs of inventory prep including Amazon's guidelines, tools you can use to work more efficiently, and how to make sure your items get received quickly and correctly. Today I'll be discussing expiration dates. Understanding expiration dates can be the difference between having inventory immediately “destroyed” up warehouse arrival or being available for sale.
An expiration date, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “the date past which a product, such as food or medicine, must be sold or removed from availability because it is no longer expected to be fresh or effective.” Manufacturers add expiration (or best by, sell by, etc)dates to ensure the buyer uses the product within a determined freshness timeframe. This freshness timeframe is also referred to as the products shelf life.
If you are selling perishable items (grocery, beauty, health and personal care, among others) then the expiration date needs to be visible on the outside of the packaging. I always add a separate label to my items with the expiration date in large, easy to read type so that warehouse workers are less likely to make a mistake when receiving my items.
Timing: When sending a perishable item into Amazon the shelf life must be more than 90 days from the date of receipt by Amazon. If today's date is 5/4/2015 and I have an item that expires on 7/14/2015. I would NOT be able to send this item via FBA because the expiration date is less than 90 days away. If an item is shipped to the warehouse more than 90 days from expiration but is still in the warehouse 50 days from expiration then it will be removed by Amazon for disposal. This is where tracking and understanding your expiration dates is very important.
I use Amazon's expiration date guidelines to help me make smart buying decisions. If I have a product with a very low rank in a category and it is within 15 days of the 90 day mark when I send it in I am almost guaranteed to sell my units before the 50 day mark. However, if I have an item with a higher rank and the same proximity to the 90 day mark I would probably leave it on the shelf because I would be less likely to sell it it time
Amazon has measures in place to make sure that the buyer gets a product that is neither expired or too close to expiration for complete consumption. In other words, if the buyer can't use the entire product before it expires then it can't be sold via FBA.For example, a 180 day supply of a daily supplement MUST be received at the warehouse no less than 180 days before the expiration date. That way a consumer would be able to use the entire course before it expired.
Size/Location: Another aspect of expiration dates that I see discussed frequently in the Facebook Forums is the size and placement of expiration date labels. Let's clear it up with clarification from Amazon itself:
You are required to include the expiration date on the outside of the prepped product. The expiration date must be printed on a label in a human-readable font, in the required format, MM-DD-YYYY or MM-YYYY.
Master cases (think pallets or boxes full of the same item) must have the expiration date “in 36 (or larger) point font AND on the individual units” enclosed in the case.
If your item includes a manufacture date instead of or in addition to an expiration date you need to make sure you cover the manufacture date otherwise a warehouse employee might mistake it for the expiration date and mark the item for disposal. I tend to err on the side of being too cautious and cover anything that is confusing when doing a quick scan during the receiving process at the warehouse.
Amazon also produced a video about Products with Expiration Dates and a printable cheatsheet for reference.
Additional detailed Amazon FBA packaging and prep guidelines can be found here.
How do you track your inventory with expiration dates. I don't track them at all. I always hope that they will sell before they expire. Probably not the best method. I would love to hear how others do it.
What are you doing today to move your business forward?
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