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Amazon shifts priority to medical supplies, household basics amid coronavirus pandemic

The change comes after the company announced a big hiring blitz on Monday.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
2 min read
Amazon Fulfillment Center

Prepping packages at an Amazon warehouse in Thornton, Colorado.

Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Amazon is now prioritizing shipments of medical supplies and household staples that come into its warehouses to help it respond to massive consumer demand during the coronavirus outbreak.

This means independent sellers on its sites will no longer be able to ship new deliveries unless they fit into these high-demand categories. The change is in effect until April 5 for both the US and European Union marketplaces.

"We are seeing increased online shopping and as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock," an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. 

"With this in mind, we are temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so we can more quickly receive, restock, and deliver these products to customers. We understand this is a change for our selling partners and appreciate their understanding as we temporarily prioritize these products for customers," the spokesperson continued.

Amazon has been making several quick changes to respond to shoppers flocking online to buy goods amid shortages, lockdowns and health fears. In addition to it prioritizing certain items, the e-commerce giant said Monday it plans to hire an additional 100,000 people in the US to help it manage the surge demand during a typically slower time of the year for retailers.

These changes should help ensure more customers get much-needed supplies to their homes and allow Amazon to more quickly build up stocks of these high-demand items. But the change could also harm many small businesses that rely on Amazon for sales.

Amazon said it's taking similar steps with both sellers and its own vendors. The company plans to alert sellers when it expects to end this new plan. Any shipments already on the way to Amazon warehouses will be accepted, and any products already in warehouses can also still be sold.

Here is a list of the categories Amazon said it will prioritize for now:

  1. Baby Products
  2. Health & Household
  3. Beauty & Personal Care (including personal care appliances)
  4. Grocery
  5. Industrial & Scientific
  6. Pet Supplies