HolidayBuyer's Guide

Amazon launches shipping services for selling partners

Newly released beta programs offer fulfillment services and branded Web sites to third-party vendors.

Amazon announced on Wednesday that its selling partners will now be able to offer goods with free shipping.

Third-party Amazon Services sellers who join "Fulfillment by Amazon," currently offered as a beta program, will be tagged with an icon that qualifies their goods for Amazon Prime and Free Super Saver Shipping options.

To join, sellers send their goods to Amazon, which will store them in an Amazon warehouse for 45 cents per cubic foot per month. Amazon will then take care of the packing, shipping, customer service and returns, just as the company does for Amazon items. The handling fees are 50 cents an item and 40 cents a pound for each item shipped.

Sellers wishing to maintain their brand identity while selling through the new system can join "WebStore by Amazon." This program, also released in beta on Wednesday, allows businesses to create their own branded Web sites while still selling through the Fulfillment by Amazon program. Site maintenance is $60 a month, and Amazon collects a 7 percent commission on each transaction. The service includes credit card processing and fraud protection.

Amazon has been offering business solutions services for several years. It offers this new fulfillment option in the face of increased competition from services such as eBay's Buy It Now, PayPal, Google Base, Google Checkout, and a recently forged Google/eBay partnership under which the two companies will share revenue on search-related text advertisements outside the U.S.

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