Will Amazon become the go-to place to buy face masks?

Discussion
Source: amazon.co.uk
Jul 29, 2020
Matthew Stern

Face masks have become a necessary part of daily living as evidence has mounted showing their efficacy in helping to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. In the U.K., where a nationwide mask mandate is now in effect, Amazon.com has launched an online shop to help customers get masks that suit their safety needs and sense of style.

The Face Mask Store, recently launched on Amazon.co.uk, allows customers to search for masks broken out into four categories: reusable cloth, general use disposable, certified medical and PPE/medical grade respirators. Customers can also search by pack size and, for some masks, customers can choose from an array of colors and designs.

Other retailers have demonstrated that there’s a lot of potential in the pandemic-era mask market, online and offline.

Will Amazon become the go-to place to buy face masks?
Source: amazon.co.uk

Etsy, for instance, is looking like a left-field pandemic success story thanks to mask sales, according to CNBC. While the publicly-traded crafting company’s shares fell by half at the onset of the pandemic, the stock price tripled when it became clear crafters were using the site to sell their homemade masks and customers were flocking to buy them.

Target is another retailer that has drawn attention by launching a line of affordable masks, online and in-store, under its Cat & Jack private label for kids and under its Universal Thread private label for adults.

Amazon is notoriously quiet about what apparel brands on its site fall under its umbrella of private label products, but Target’s success releasing masks under its private labels demonstrates that Amazon could have success with own-brands.

There were a few significant mask-related developments last week throughout Europe as reported by The Washington Post. France mandated face coverings within all enclosed spaces and the U.K. began enforcing mandatory masks within all shops and supermarkets. Despite a growing body of evidence that the use of masks can significantly slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, the U.S. government under President Donald Trump has remained resistant to a mask mandate on the national level.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Amazon have success with this online store, and should it launch the same service in the U.S.? Do you see Amazon quietly launching private label masks as it has in other areas of apparel, and how might that affect its competition?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Think of it as a new category of products created by an exogenous event – with built in demand, rather than an innovative product that addresses an unmet need."
"Show of hands, is anyone surprised? Once Amazon joins a party, they become the party."
"The next step of that evolution is when Amazon produces its private label offerings to provide value and quality at lower prices."

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19 Comments on "Will Amazon become the go-to place to buy face masks?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

For now, masks are part of our daily lives and having better access to them is a good thing. If there is one thing Amazon is particularly excellent at, it’s responding to market demand. The Face Mask Store seems to be made for the times we’re living in and I expect Amazon to do very well with it – at least until an effective vaccine is broadly available. If masks are a secret, it’s the worst kept secret ever – this is not about outmaneuvering competitors, it’s about filling a market need.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Masks are now a staple for every household — every household — even if some choose not to participate. The ubiquity of demand and the reluctance of some to visit stores makes Amazon the perfect alternative. Who else has this kind of reach into every household?

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Personally, I prefer medical supply places. I don’t have a lot of trust in Amazon’s masks. It’s not clear which ones are medical and which are not (the landing page from a search perspective is very confusing), and I just prefer to get the ones that make the most sense for me.

But it does have the convenience factor. One thing that Amazon’s supply chain problems early in the pandemic did for me was open my eyes to other, equally quick sellers.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

Think of it as a new category of products created by an exogenous event – with built in demand, rather than an innovative product that addresses an unmet need. Masks are a safety product and will be with us longer than we want and many will keep a supply in the pantry just in case. So this category has legs across the globe, just don’t expect huge growth. We’ve already hit the explosive spike in demand, now it’s a replenishment cadence with a few spikes from those stocking up for the next emergency.

I don’t expect Amazon to launch private label lines unless the data tells them that masks are now a must-have item in one’s wardrobe.

Stephen Rector
BrainTrust

Amazon doesn’t even need to have an online store – just put in “face masks” in the search bar and you have tons of options. Of course they will dominate the online market, but I would like to point out that there are many fashion apparel brands that are making masks and actually giving a portion of the sales to local charities, health care providers, etc. Purchasing from them would actually do more local good than purchasing from Amazon.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

A lot of businesses from apparel, office supplies, etc. got into this area months ago. Amazon is late to the game, but if they want to consolidate all the brands, designers, etc., who are we to say? Amazon has a great reach so this is not that far of a stretch.

Brett Busconi
Guest

Yes, Amazon will have success with this online store.

Yes, Amazon should (will) launch the same service in the U.S., although I don’t think they even need to do that. Just put the products on the site, people will go there before most places to look and get an idea of the options available.

Yes, I see Amazon quickly getting their private label masks in place and offering them at a price point which could see competitors needing to lower the price that they would want to sell at.

Who is the bulk mask sales market leader going to be?

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Amazon’s timely creation of an online store suggests there’s a lucrative opportunity to mask the masses. The U.K. results could help Amazon tweak its business model before a U.S. launch this fall.

One report found apparel accounts for 63 percent of Amazon’s private labels. Given apparel’s strategic significance, why wouldn’t Amazon add masks to its private label assortment? Private label gives Amazon more control over its offerings, including masks that offer safety, sustainability and aesthetic appeal.

David Weinand
BrainTrust

It’s kind of a no-brainer for Amazon. Their reach, the medium to long term requirement of masks, and their buying power all line up to put Amazon in a lead position if they chose to do so.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

Amazon will be successful with The Face Mask Store because of their brand recognition and ability to order online and deliver purchases efficiently. They will likely bring the same capability to the U.S. to compete with the likes of Target. Amazon would offer private label masks as it does with other apparel.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

If there is a retail segment that has yet to reach Amazon, then it’s a matter of time until it becomes part of the vast online marketplace. The next step of that evolution is when Amazon produces its private label offerings to provide value and quality at lower prices. Masks are no exception, as they have become part of our everyday life.

It is, however, very admirable that local and indie apparel manufacturers have adapted their operating models to produce masks. A Cape Cod kids clothing DTC manufacturer is one of those brands that has evolved and is taking the socially responsible steps to donate masks to the front line workers. Mask production has become a lifeline of sorts for the indie clothing manufacturers, and consumers should support them in their time of need.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

I partially agree with Stephen Rector’s comments. Amazon is already doing a booming business in masks, just type in any number of search words and you’ll see for yourself. So how could it add value, and – more importantly – add differentiating value? One way might be to nuance the search engine a bit adding specific categories of masks, although I really don’t see the need for a full-blown e-store. Another would be to rank in a slightly different way; some combination of price, performance, quality, reliability, etc. As to the private label question. Why not?

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Yes to both. It does something that the current U.S. site does not. It starts with a way to search by type and pack size rather that having to sort through a list of alternatives. By developing their own private label brand they have control over the product and customers have some assurance of the masks’ quality.

Liz Adamson
BrainTrust

Even without a mask mandate on the national level in the U.S., there are plenty of states and counties that are mandating masks to one degree or another. In my home state of Utah masks are required for K-12 students who attend school in person and a couple of our larger counties have a mask mandate. Until we find other options to control the spread of COVID-19, masks are going to be a part of our lives. Amazon and other retailers would do well to make it easy to find and purchase a variety of masks. A face mask store on Amazon’s U.S. marketplace would do very well as would any private label brand they offer.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Finally. Finding a mask has been difficult for months now. Yes, Esty filled the gap for my family. Great news Amazon, please open a mask store in the U.S. I recommend Target let the public know they have masks. After many, many online searches for masks, this is important news and another reason to shop Target.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

Amazon may be a bit late to the market. We seem to be in a position to need masks for quite a while, but the initial surge in sales is past and volumes should be settling down.

Were Amazon to pursue this, though, they should follow the lead of other retailers and emphasize complete safety — with sanitizers, oximeters, thermometers, and other COVID-19 related goods.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

Show of hands, is anyone surprised? Once Amazon joins a party, they become the party. I don’t see anything different happening here. Many new businesses have been spawned as a result of the pandemic. I was recently asked to join a new team selling PPE. Yes this will be with us for the foreseeable future; but the questions is how long and what will we be wearing when we come out the other side?

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

Amazon is very good at adapting and setting up a mask storefront; not that hard for them given they already have the search engine technology. It is a matter of putting in the curation and ensuring enough reputable suppliers are available. The law just gave them an event to tie to the launch. In the US, mask use is still — sadly — a divisive subject, so Amazon probably will launch it quietly.

Casey Golden
BrainTrust
16 days 1 hour ago

I’ll never buy clothing from Amazon and wouldn’t trust them with a mask. Not all masks are created equal, trust and quality are key. Two things I don’t get from Amazon. There are D2C brands that do only masks with nanotechnology, have filter subscription services and provide high-quality smart fabrics. Poor consumer education will be the main factor driving Amazon mask sales.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Think of it as a new category of products created by an exogenous event – with built in demand, rather than an innovative product that addresses an unmet need."
"Show of hands, is anyone surprised? Once Amazon joins a party, they become the party."
"The next step of that evolution is when Amazon produces its private label offerings to provide value and quality at lower prices."

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