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Face Masks, Other Protective Wearables Set to Boost Licensed Accessories Sales by Over $500 Million in 2020

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The Licensing Letter estimates that cloth face masks, neck gaiters, scarves, bandanas, and other “protective wearables” will boost retail sales of licensed accessories by anywhere between $500 million and $750 million in 2020 within the U.S. That sum is, of course, a drop in the bucket compared to amount of retail sales that are expected to be lost over this year—up to $2.5 billion in the accessories category alone, according to preliminary TLL estimates.

Many licensed offerings are in short supply, being sold out as soon as they hit the web or only available to begin being be shipped out at the end of May or throughout June. Despite this production gap, many businesses are betting on sustained demand from everyday consumers practicing social distancing as stay-at-home orders are lifted and until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed and distributed.

Selling cloth face masks and other protective wearables is also seen as a way to re-engage customers online and defray lost sales. Manufacturers are careful to warn that their cloth face masks do not reliably block smaller airborne particles or viruses (and are not medical grade PPE), with offerings being billed as fashion accessories, social distancing aids, or as mask covers for healthcare workings wearing crucial PPE.

The average price for a licensed cloth mask ranges from $5 per piece in a set to up to $20 per individual mask, with the average price hovering between $10 and $15 a piece. Although masks are washable and reusable, most consumers are expected to buy multiple designs at frequent rates as they wear out their masks. A charitable component to any offering is seen as essential to promoting goodwill among customers.

Major licensees currently manufacturing cloth face masks include Trevco, which launched its subscription-based MaskClub in mid-April. The manufacturer’s current roster of licensors which have expanded into the face masks category include Warner Bros., Hasbro, Cartoon Network, Cloudco Entertainment, King Features, Sesame Street, NASA, and WWE. Through its MaskClub program, Trevco promises to donate one medical-grade mask to first responders for every cloth mask sold.

One of the first major American sports leagues to begin selling face masks were the NBA and WNBA in partnership with manufacturers FOCO and Industry Rag as well as e-commerce distributor Fanatics. Proceeds from sales of the masks are to go to Feeding America in the U.S. and Second Harvest in Canada. (BreakingT has offerings from the respective player’s associations). Other major American leagues like the NFL, NHL, and MLS have not fallen behind, and also boast their own licensed offerings.

Through its Bravado division, Universal Music Group launched a “We Got You Covered” campaign for its key artists including The Rolling Stones, Billie Eilish, Bob Marley, Queen, Justin Bieber, Willie Nelson, Blackpink, and Frank Sinatra. Proceeds will support the global community though various partner charities, including MusiCares in the U.S. The program will also contribute 50,000 masks to local community centers like food banks.

Smaller band merchandising licensees have been uniquely positioned to step up into the market, given the fact that they were already manufacturing face masks and bandanas for EDM, rock ‘n roll, and K-pop fans.

Disney is producing its own character masks in adult’s and children’s sizes, set to ship in late June, with up to $1 million in profits to go to non-profit MedShare as well as a donation of 1 million of the masks to go to vulnerable communities.

Apparel brands are notably repurposing material meant for t-shirts as well as excess fabric from normal production into making cloth masks. Brands include Madewell, Vera Bradley, Alice + Olivia, and Uncommon Goods.

One unexpected new partnership is between apron company Hedley & Bennett and pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Cho (the husband of Oh Joy!’s Joy Cho) to create a line of high-quality cloth masks.


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