MB Internal Studio / Old Navy
Retailers in the clothing world are turning to the latest clothing essential to improve their brand and increase sales: the non-medical face mask.
Nordstrom announced on Tuesday that it will start selling face masks for $ 4 each in a pack of six. The move comes just weeks after a Seattle-based retailer announced it would close 16 stores forever after a coronavirus pandemic forced all its locations to close.
The company is the latest in a line of clothing brands that add face masks to their repertoire as demand continues to grow. Retail giants such as 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 sold on the market. The Nordstrom mask packs sold out just two days after the scene, and many of the Gap masks were put back in mid-June. Kim Kardashian West’s SKIMS brand began selling face masks on May 16 and sold out hours later.
Unfortunately ours @skims face masks are sold out today, but we are working with our local partner in LA to produce as quickly as possible. The next batch will be available next week – please register to receive more details soon, and thank you for your support.
– Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) May 16, 2020
However, the sale is not so much a function of demand as a reflection of the uncertainty that surrounds the retail industry as a whole, Forrester retail analyst Suharita Kodali told NPR. Retailers have no precedent based on the volume of their supply and have no idea how long the demand will last.
“There’s just no data,” Kodali said. “No one knew what to expect for what products, because they had never faced this dilemma before.”
Retailers are also facing a bloated supply chain, as many of the factories that make these masks are overseas, she said. Supply chain backups have also allowed faster companies to jump on the trend faster.
“Smaller companies are more agile, they are able to react to change faster. They see trends and jump,” she said. “While for many other companies, they just hope this passes … Frankly, they’re not that nimble.”
One of the nimble ones is the e-commerce website Etsy. The site saw a giant spike from a “face mask” in its search results in the first week of April, shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to wear face coatings at any time in a public place, according to an investor presentation. of the company. In April alone, the site raised more than $ 130 million in sales of face masks, according to the presentation.
“We sold over 12 million face masks in April alone,” CEO Josh Silverman told investors. “In fact, if face masks were a stand-alone category, it would be Etsy’s second largest category in April.”
Etsy also saw a 79% increase from April last year among other products, according to the show.
“I would say they are in the right place at the right time,” Kodali said. “When you think about who is able to consolidate the power of a million sewers in the country, the only answer is Etsy.”
Many brands also use the global demand for face masks as an opportunity to build positive engagement by making charitable donations from the sales of their face masks. Both Disney and the NBA have started selling masks with a commitment that the proceeds will go to various charities. Disney, on the one hand, took big losses in the first three months of 2020, with net income down 91% from the previous year. Nordstrom and Gap have donated masks to health workers and other charitable causes.
However, for most companies that now sell masks, and especially for such large ones as Gap and Nordstrom, Kodali says sales will not hit bottom. Selling masks is more a demonstration of how flexible a company can be than the unexpected.
“If you’re a retailer and you don’t have masks, that probably means you have bigger problems with your supply chain.”