Will face masks be a lifeline for apparel retail?
Apparel continues to struggle amid the uncertainty of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but one brand has made the best out of the situation, pivoting to use materials already in its pipeline to create a pandemic-appropriate product.
Facing sales declines of 60 percent at the onset of the novel coronavirus outbreak, San Francisco menswear brand Blade + Blue began working with its manufacturing partner to use remnants from last season’s shirts as well as the upcoming summer season’s shirts to make masks, CNN Business reported. The brand’s founder, Peter Papas, said that the move not only saved the business, it also attracted new customers. Blade + Blue has donated some masks to healthcare workers and first responders in addition to selling them to the general public.
In addition to slowing sales and supply chain disruptions, backlogged inventory has been one of the biggest problems faced by apparel brands and retailers throughout the duration of the pandemic. Retailers with highly-seasonal stock are having to choose between holding over unreleased seasonal merchandise into the following year or selling at huge markdowns as stores slowly reopen.
In an attempt to weather the storm while helping out with the cause of protecting healthcare workers from COVID-19, Blade + Blue is not the only apparel brand to get in on the mask making game.
Both Banana Republic and Old Navy are among those that have been donating and selling non-medical cloth face masks and, according to USA Today, the ones from Old Navy are being made from the brand’s leftover fabric.
Earlier on in the pandemic, retailers like Joann Stores and Neiman Marcus started making masks for frontline medical personnel in light of a nationwide PPE shortage, even though at the time there was conflicting data as to the effectiveness of cloth masks in particular situations.
While some luxury brands had been making face masks preceding the pandemic, they have pared down their availability, according to Glossy, over fears that selling such products in the price range of hundreds of dollars would be considered gouging during the pandemic and promote a backlash.
- From menswear to mask-making: Blade + Blue’s Covid-19 pivot – CNN Business
- Looking for a face mask? Banana Republic masks are back in stock – USA Today
- Should fashion retailers mothball spring – RetailWire
- Joann Stores and Neiman Marcus sew hope for healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus – RetailWire
- Can a mask be an ‘it’ accessory? – Glossy
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should apparel brands and retailers consider repurposing their existing or leftover materials into masks? What do you think they can do to differentiate in this respect?