My interest in Merch is mostly centered on how the service affects current Amazon t-shirt sellers, but since many people haven’t heard of the service, I’ll do a quick run down on how it works.
Merch by Amazon is a print on demand service introduced by Amazon September 30, 2015. Originally marketed toward app developers, Merch quickly attracted thousands of sellers interested in starting a t-shirt business with little to no investment.
The premise is simple: sellers upload artwork to the Merch By Amazon site (merch.amazon.com) and it is almost immediately available on amazon.com. Merch items qualify for Amazon Prime and Amazon will produce and ship the item. Merch sellers set their price for the item, Amazon takes a listing fee of 15% of the sale price in addition to a royalty payment of $9.31, and sellers pocket the difference. A shirt that sells for $19.99 for example, would net the Merch seller a $7.69 royalty payment once Amazon takes their cut. Two-sided printing adds an additional fee of $4 per shirt and upgrading the t-shirt to an American Apparel shirt adds another $1.5o. Sellers are paid on a monthly basis.
Particularly attractive to people who have an interest in starting a business with no up-front costs, Merch was quickly flooded and Amazon’s production overwhelmed. Amazon quickly gated the service and entry to the program is by invitation only. Invitations often take 2-4 months to arrive after an application is submitted.
In the 8 months or so Merch has been live, limits have been placed on how many designs sellers can upload, designs have been hidden from the amazon.com search results in an effort to throttle sales, and lead times to ship out orders by Amazon have fluctuated from a couple of days to almost two weeks. Needless to say, the service has experienced some growing pains.