As independent retailers wonder how they will survive the current crisis and scramble to remain connected to their customers, big retail has problems of its own.  Amazon has gone to what is essentially a coronavirus war footing, ending incoming shipments of goods outside of key categories, both from third-party sellers and on its own behalf.

Note: We've clarified this article as of 12:46 p.m., March 18: Amazon's shipment restrictions and prioritizations affect only incoming shipments to Amazon, and not outgoing shipments from Amazon.  Amazon is temporarily suspending its handling of incoming shipments on non-essential goods from third party sellers to its fulfilled-by-Amazon service, and from its own suppliers, but will continue to take orders and ship from existing inventory on non-essential goods.

The key categories Amazon is prioritizing are:

  • Baby Products
  • Health & Household
  • Beauty & Personal Care (including personal care appliances)
  • Grocery
  • Industrial & Scientific
  • Pet Supplies

We don’t see graphic novels, tabletop games, or Funko Pop!s on that list, so as inventories in Amazon warehouses decline, this transforms the retail landscape for key geek culture product categories.

On the plus side, brick-and-mortar retailers just picked up a dramatic opportunity to increase their omnichannel sales (order for shipment, order for pick-up), as the opportunity to "order it on Amazon" has been hampered for at least a couple of weeks, a period when a big percentage of the American population is going to be cocooning.

On the negative side, many brick-and-mortar retailers also used Amazon for fulfillment for online sales, an option that can no longer be replenished, for now.

We’ll call it a net positive for brick-and-mortar retailers and potentially a big negative for publishers, many of whom count on Amazon for a major percentage of their sales.

The new restrictions on Amazon sales will remain in place until April 5, for now.

Meanwhile the CEO of Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest brick-and-mortar book retailer and a major games retailer, had a grim prognosis when asked by the New York Times about his thoughts on the future of booksellers.  "We’ll suffer disruption along with everybody else," he said.  "It’s going to be hugely challenging for retailers, perhaps slightly less for us than most. Most of our events will be canceled, if not all.  This is a really tough time for every retailer, and unquestionably we will suffer."  The "slightly less than most" comment referred to a comparison with bars and restaurants, according to the report.

Retail chains are closing temporarily across the country, including Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Apple, Nike, REI, Urban Outfitters, Williams-Sonoma, and many more.

The situation is changing daily; watch ICv2 for the latest.