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As Face Mask Sales Skyrocket, Leading Brands Step In To Help

May 7, 2020 Carolyn Harding

Shutterstock_1667783314 Top view of Stack cotton, white tissue paper and DIY fabric cotton face mask on wood table. Protect saliva, cough, dust, pollution (PM2.5), Virus, Bacteria, COVID-19. Handmade concept. Copy space.

Face masks have become both essential and, in many cases, hard to come by over the course of the last few months. With the CDC continuing to encourage and local governments, in some places, requiring people to wear face coverings when they go out in public, the production of face masks has been thrusted into one of the highest-demand services. As a result, brands both big and small have launched into action, pivoting their production facilities and typical products to now create and sell face masks to meet the surge in demand.

Medical & Non-Medical Face Mask Sales See Predictions Of Continued Demand

The World Health Organization estimates 89 million medical masks will be required every month throughout the pandemic. In order to meet that demand, a 40% increase in manufacturing is both needed and expected. 

Major manufacturing companies, like 3M, have announced they are quickly and drastically increasing production of face masks. According to the New York Times, 3M plans to increase its production in the U.S., where it makes an estimated 400 million masks each year, by more than 30% over the next year. Honeywell shared it has more than doubled its N-95 mask production in recent months, while Ameritech, the nation's largest surgical mask manufacturer, is experiencing daily order requests ranging from 1 to 100 million face masks. Ameritech says phone calls regarding face masks used to be a rarity but have not grown to nearly 100 calls each day.

And while many consumers expect these larger manufacturing companies to increase production of medical masks, a new wave of brands, which consumers may not have expected, have begun creation of face masks for the everyday person. The reasons for this influx of brands now creating face masks varies with motivations tied to social responsibility, increasing brand awareness and finding new advertising platforms. Regardless, these mask-producing companies are undoubtedly contributing to the rise in face mask availability across the country.

Face Mask Sales From Retailers Like J. Crew & Madewell Create “Halo Effect” In Site Traffic

Traditional brick-and-mortar apparel companies have found a silver lining through the creation and rapid sales of face masks. J. Crew and its sister brand Madewell, for example, pivoted their typical supply chains from jeans and blouses to protective gear for consumers and those on the frontline. The result of both brands’ ability to quickly shift gears? The popular retailers sold out of all face masks in less than one day and proved there can still be demand for retailers that may be experiencing declined sales of their signature products. “It’s [creating and selling face masks] been a way for these companies to stay in business and just stay relevant,” said Gabriella Santaniello, Founder of retail research firm A Line Partners.

According to Ad Age, retail sales fell by 8.7% in March — the biggest drop since 1992, with the decline led by apparel. Selling essential products like face masks, however, has been an effective way for brands to keep consumers engaged, increase website traffic, maintain some semblance of operations and potentially open the door for other transactions. Santaniello added, “It's something of a halo effect — people will go on the site and look for masks. If they’re offering compelling discounts, they will possibly continue to shop.”

Etsy Experiences Overwhelming Demand & Record Sales

Etsy quickly geared up for increased demand of face masks, asking its network of sellers who have the necessary skills and materials to begin creating and selling face masks on the Etsy platform and encouraging consumers to use the hashtag #StandWithSmall (referring to the ongoing support needed for small business owners at this time). Almost instantaneously, Etsy sellers began experiencing overwhelming demand, with nearly 20,000 shops on Etsy selling face masks today. “We believe that the Etsy community is uniquely positioned to address this crucial need during a global health crisis,” said Etsy CEO Josh Silverman.

Etsy said in a blog post that hundreds of thousands of face masks have been sold through the site each day, and that “face mask” has frequently been the most searched term on Etsy throughout the pandemic. “While tens of thousands of sellers have already augmented their product offerings to include fabric face masks, demand will very likely outpace our sellers' existing supply. That's why we are continuing to let sellers know that those with the skill and materials may want to consider creating and selling face masks on Etsy," the company added.

The face masks Etsy sellers are delivering has provided somewhat of a relief to the sellers, as many of these sellers have experienced major declines in demand for their other products.  

Disney, NBA & WNBA Pledge To Donate All Face Mask Profits

Major brands like Disney, the NBA and the WNBA are encouraging the purchase of their branded face masks as a way to give back. The NBA and the WNBA were two of the first major organizations to enter into the face mask production space, featuring logos of the 30 NBA teams and 12 WNBA teams in their respective leagues. Both organizations announced all proceeds will go to Feeding America in the U.S. and Second Harvest in Canada.

Disney recently debuted their custom character face masks – featuring familiar favorites like Mickey Mouse, The Avengers and Buzz Lightyear – and announced its plans to donate up to $1 million in profits from the face mask sales to Medshare, a nonprofit that delivers medical supplies and equipment to communities around the world. “During these challenging times, we’re using the power of our timeless stories and beloved characters to address our guests’ needs,” said Laura Cirigliano, Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

In addition to appealing to consumers looking for companies displaying corporate social responsibility by supporting nonprofits from face mask sale proceeds, companies like Disney, the NBA and the WNBA will likely increase brand awareness with their mask initiatives.

The current pandemic has a way of showing which brands have the ability to pivot and adjust their strategies to fit the new normal. The global face mask shortage and the rapid rise of sales presents an opportunity for brands that are unable to sell their typical products at the rate they previously were to connect with consumers in a meaningful way. The need for face masks isn’t slowing down, giving businesses all the more reason to shift their capabilities and marketing strategy from what is comfortable to what is needed.

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About the Author

Carolyn Harding

Carolyn Harding is an Associate Manager of Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. DMS helps its clients accelerate growth by deploying diversified and data-driven customer acquisition solutions that deliver scalable, sustainable and measurable marketing results. DMS performance marketing solutions connect the right consumers with the right offers at the right time to achieve the marketing objectives of our clients. DMS is continually innovating to provide new and emerging media and technology solutions that minimize waste and maximize results across the most competitive industries. Since its inception, DMS has demonstrated incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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