They’re either the fashion accessory of the moment or a life-saving piece of safety equipment. Or maybe they’re both as several types and sizes of retailers step up to sell non-medical face masks.
The retail face mask efforts range from small to big companies. On the large end of the spectrum is fabric and craft store chain JOANN, which is tapping into the DIY segment of the need for the masks as teachers and students prepare for a possible return to school sometime in the fall. The retailer announced on Wednesday that although plans for the fall academic season are far from settled it will kick off a Masks for Schools program launching nationwide. With every pre-made protective face mask purchased from JOANN, it will donate one to a school in need.
“We have been on a mission to protect Americans by way of cloth masks since the onset of this pandemic, and masks will continue to be one of the most effective ways to mitigate the spread for the foreseeable future,” said Wade Miquelon, CEO and president of JOANN. “We realize that as schools — from preschools to universities — resume in-person classes, they will be in need of masks. We aim to continue the mission we set forth in March — to help mask and protect all, while supporting those on the frontlines, and regardless of any ability to pay.”
The effort comes as on the heels of the chain’s “Make to Give” DIY mask campaign. Last week that campaign passed an estimated 200 million masks donated by individual store and corporate donations, and customer mask-making purchases. Larger efforts to support hospitals and have included JOANN’s partnerships with Neiman Marcus and David’s Bridal.
On the smaller side of the spectrum — but bigger in the aggregate — is Etsy. It sold more than 12 million face masks during April totaling around $133 million in sales. It has not published any numbers for May yet. Etsy says face masks represented the second largest category of sales for April.
“It was like waking up and discovering it was Cyber Monday, except everyone in the world just wanted one product and that product was in extremely limited supply,” Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said on a call with investors a few weeks ago.
On an even smaller scale MaskClub, a subscription-based buy one, donate one online mask retailer announced last week that it was expanding its mask offerings with a new line of kid-sized masks. MaskClub is owned by Trevco, a licensing company with over 800 licensed brands. Its designs come from Sesame Street, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Nickelodeon favorites like SpongeBob SquarePants. For every mask purchase, Trevco donates a medical-grade mask to First Responders Children’s Foundation for distribution to medical personnel treating COVID-19 patients. To date, MaskClub has donated 100,000 medical masks to first responders.
MaskClub claims to be the only company to offer a mask subscription model, where customers will receive a new mask every month from their favorite brand. Subscriptions are $9.99 month for one mask.
“Hundreds of thousands of people are buying masks,” MaskClub Founder Trevor George tells PYMNTS. “People of all ages, elderly down to younger millennial. Some are buying to stay in line with CDC guidelines to wear a mask, some are buying because of the fashion element of our licenses. This is a long-term play for us. Even after coronavirus, we feel people think differently about simple influenza like the flu. Surely there will be mask wearing in publicly crowded areas for the long term.”