Retailers

27 May 2020

Coronavirus: face masks provide a new frontier for retailers

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Retailers across the apparel world are turning to the newest essential garment to further their brand recognition and boost sales: the nonmedical face masks. Nordstrom announced Tuesday it would begin selling face masks for US$ 4 each in packs of six. Nordstrom began selling nonmedical cloth face masks Tuesday. Two days later, the masks had sold out on Nordstrom’s website. The move comes just weeks after the Seattle-based retailer announced it would permanently shutter 16 stores. It happened after the coronavirus pandemic forced all of its locations to close.

The company is the latest in a string of apparel brands to add face masks to its repertoire as demand continues to grow. Retail giants like The Gap and its subsidiaries, Banana Republic, Athleta, and Old Navy, also began selling masks earlier this month.

Despite the recent flood of new brands offering masks, the product is selling out across the market. Nordstrom’s packs of masks are sold out just two days after coming on the scene, and many of Gap’s masks are on backorder until mid-June. Kim Kardashian West’s brand SKIMS began selling face masks on May 16 and sold out hours later.

Retailers
Retailers across the apparel world are turning to the newest essential garment to further their brand recognition and boost sales: the nonmedical face masks. (Source: Business Insider)

The relationship between retailers and face masks

One of the nimble is the e-commerce website Etsy. The site saw a giant spike of “face mask” in its search results in the first week of April, shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that face coverings be worn at all times in public. In April alone, the site grossed more than $130 million in face masks. A silk face mask made by Etsy shop MilleSaisons. The mask is a bestseller on the Etsy e-commerce website.

Many brands are also using the worldwide demand for face masks as an opportunity to build positive engagement by making charitable donations of their face mask sales. Both Disney and the NBA have begun to sell masks with the commitment that proceeds will go to various charities. Nordstrom and Gap have both donated masks to health care workers and other charitable causes.

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Still, for most of the retailers‘ companies now selling masks, and especially for those as large as Gap and Nordstrom. Selling the face masks is more a demonstration of how flexible a company can be in the face of the unexpected. If you’re a retailer and you don’t have masks, that probably means you have bigger issues with your supply chain.

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