U.S. Manufacturers Pivot to Produce Booming Sales of Face Masks

While demand for consumer goods crashed amidst news of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been one product where sales are actually booming: face masks.

As states throughout the country began lockdowns in March and April, many manufacturers faced lower demand for their products. While some companies were forced to furlough workers in order to cut costs, others found a way out of crisis–by producing masks.

Insta Shield USA is an example co-founded by Dan Brown Jr. and his father, serial inventor Dan Brown Sr., to quickly fill the void of protective face shields. When they saw news reports of people making face shields on 3-D printers, they were determined to find a way to mass-produce shields in the U.S. and get them to essential workers and consumers expediently.

The Browns used their design, manufacturing, and commercialization knowledge to create InstaShield™, a patent-pending, FDA-EUA medical grade shield that fits over the bill of a baseball hat.

Steele Canvas, a Massachusetts-based storage cart manufacturer, avoided furloughing their 70 workers by taking advantage of the high demand for face masks.

“It’s become a very significant part of our business,” said Ryan Huston, Steele’s head of sales and marketing. “We were able to keep our whole staff 100 percent employed and even to hire some extra people.”

That was in April and, now that the initial demand has settled and everyone has a mask, consumers are buying them more with style in mind. Sellers on Etsy have especially taken advantage of the demand for fun and fashionable masks. Etsy reported that 60,000 shops were selling masks in April, making it Etsy’s second-biggest category.

However, the mask rush is slowly declining as cheaper imported options become available to the American public. Largely Asian manufacturers are taking market share by selling extremely cheap masks produced under unethical labor standards.

“Because we pay our employees over minimum wage and we make everything in the U.S., our stuff is more expensive,” said another mask manufacturer, Pistol Lake‘s chief executive Ryan Light. “Do people still want to pay $15 for an ethically manufactured one made out of organic and recycled materials or do people see it more like a sock? That’s a debate we have going on internally.”

Despite the slow decline in mask consumption, it doesn’t look like the accessories will be leaving the market any time soon–and when consumers purchase American made masks, they’re not only helping to contain the spread of Covid-19, they’re also joining the American made movement.

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