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Coronavirus,

Licensing Industry Loves COVID-19 Masks

US President Donald Trump may not be a fan of masks … but the licensing industry loves them!

Reusable COVID-19 masks literally became the world’s fastest growing industry this year, going from almost zero in North America to a multi-billion dollar industry in just months.

As it became clear the coronavirus was spreading rapidly in the US and Canada this spring, enterprising licensors and licensees acted fast to create a wide range of new consumer products, designed to put a personal touch on personal protection.

Trevco’s MaskClub.com was one early entrant in the sector, launching masks with a collection of licenses from major entertainment and toy brands. The company took the unusual approach of launching a monthly subscription service, featuring thousands of mask designs featuring Betty Boop, Sesame Street, Hello Kitty, DC Comics, and even NASA.

Fanatics – the official supplier for major sports franchises like the NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL – quickly followed up with officially licensed NBA and WNBA masks.

While many manufacturers are including an element of charity in their programs, due to the drastic global impact of COVID-19 on human lives, the segment is nonetheless a major revenue generator, with an estimated six to eight billion masks to be sold in the US alone at prices ranging from $5 to $20 a piece, and more.

The trend is seen as particularly important for children who may balk at wearing a face mask, but will put one on happily if it bears a design from Paw Patrol or the Avengers.

The biggest players in the retail licensing industry, including Disney and Warner Brothers, have hit the mask trend hard. By May of this year the ‘House of Mouse’ was rolling out a wide range of non-medical, reusable masks featuring Star Wars, Marvel, Disney and Pixar characters.

“We realize this is a challenging time for families and wearing any type of mask can be daunting,” said Edward Park, senior vice president, Disney store and shopDisney, in a statement announcing the House of Mouse’s new face masks on Thursday. “Our hope is that Disney’s cloth face masks featuring some of our most beloved characters will provide comfort to the families, fans and communities that are so important to us.”

Disney also gave away one million face masks to families in underserved communities across the United States, and donated $1 million of its profits to MedShare, a company that provides medical supplies to communities in need.

But make no mistake; the burgeoning mask licensing industry is creating massive profits for companies that otherwise have had to struggle through the challenges posed by a global pandemic.

Michael Lewis, CEO of the sports merchandising firm FOCO, says the mask industry offered a means to recoup some of the declines in other lines of licensed merchandise.

“We’re talking as many as five billion face masks could be utilized in the first 12 months,” said Michael Lewis, CEO of FOCO, a New Jersey-based manufacturer and retailer of officially licensed sports and entertainment merchandise.

“Let’s put this in perspective,” Lewis said on CNN Business in May. “Most of us didn’t have a cloth mask at home before the pandemic. Face masks are now an essential item. Just like with socks and underwear, we can’t just have one.”

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