The Masked Women of Etsy – How Small Sellers Handled the Boom in Mask Sales

September 22, 2020

We see them all the time, but did you ever wonder where all these masks are coming from?  Sure, there are the blue surgical ones and the N95s, but what about all the stylish ones with patterns we see people wearing?

Well, it turns out that a lot of these masks come from small mom-and-pop sellers, mostly women.  And a lot are selling handmade masks made at home on Etsy, according to a recent article in the Verge.
Massive sales of masks
There were $346 million in mask sales on Etsy from April to June 2020 with 100,000+ sellers offering masks.  Sales of masks alone accounted for over 10% of sales in that period.
According to the article, many of the larger sellers didn’t want to be named because they didn’t want family and friends to know how much money they made selling masks.
LA garment district
The LA garment district has a lot of sewing factories and is the new center of the garment industry in the U.S.  Sorry, New York.  According to Jennifer Song, formerly President of fashion company Tobi, “if you are getting a reasonably priced made in America product, it’s most likely coming out of LA.”
Etsy gave its sellers a push
Interestingly, Etsy itself pushed its sellers to capitalize on the mask boom.  Here’s how they did it.  On April 3, the CDC started recommending that people wear cloth face masks.  Etsy published a blog post, sent out push notifications and sent emails to sellers, trumpeting them to make cloth masks.  The push notifications said:  “Calling all sellers: start making face masks. We’re experiencing unprecedented demand. You can make a difference.”
Etsy’s nimble response
Etsy also optimized search on its site to feature masks.  People searching for masks would find the cloth masks instead of Halloween masks or other types of masks.  And then, they gave early sellers a thank you gift by refunding listing fees on up to 100 masks for up to $20. 

Etsy got 5% of the $346 million in sales from June to August 2020. 
Amazon and eBay caught flat-footed
Meanwhile, Amazon and eBay were stopping sales of surgical and N95 masks on their platforms so that hospitals could get priority.  In doing so, they also ended up making it difficult for sellers of cloth masks, too.  Sellers complained about getting caught up in getting listings approved, many of which never got done.  eBay outright banned mask sales in March and didn’t allow cloth masks until May.
Sales of masks have been going down more recently, due to self-correction in mask supply as well as the plateauing of new cases of coronavirus.

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