Whether you like them or not, face masks are here to stay. So how are retailers curating this product to fit into their assortment while fitting consumer needs?
Face masks have come to serve a variety of situations as use becomes regulation, embedding them into daily routines.
As we edge into a new way of living, PPE and face masks have become a new norm within that. We outline the 5 ways to evolve this product as we enter fall and adjust to using face masks.
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1. Adapt for temperature changes
Snoods for coziness and comfort
There’s opportunity to help make children feel more comfortable wearing a covering that has character detailing – sets including snoods can work well here. Neck warmers are also less likely to be whipped off or dropped by a child, which sits more securely.
Built-in & detachable details
Boohoo were quick off the mark, with built-in details landing as early as April across genders – mainly worked into hoodies. As temperatures drop, there’s more space for these. Currently, 68% of ‘snood’ tops retailing are at boohoo or boohooMAN. The ME AND EM product retailing at Selfridges (see below) has a detachable-snood. Though this landed pre-pandemic, it illustrates that the detail can work in the luxury market too.
Balaclavas for optimal covering
Ski masks speak to consumers who live in regions that will feel the depths of winter. It also chimes with the broader movement of interest and love of the outdoors. Designs in black with traditional stitch design detail have arrived from Acne and Supreme, the latter landed early July for $155 USD and £177 GBP at Farfetch and sold out within a week.
Handkerchiefs/bandanas for a trend-led alternative
Riffing off the Western story of the moment, these have been the covering of choice for many celebrities from Olivia Palermo to Sarah Jessica Parker. How useful a scarf is at keeping germs at bay is questionable, but these can be offered as a covering to a plain fitted and more technical mask.
2. Comfort should be front & center
Just 15% of face masks retailing are described as comfortable
Discomfort around wearing face masks is something that retailers must respond to and solve. Provide a product that appeals to those who are struggling to find one that suits them.
Use terms that signal comfort in descriptions
Only 6% of products retailing use the term ‘breathable’ and 7% say ‘lightweight’, including these can help shoppers feel at ease with wearing and purchasing them. Other terms to consider in design and then applying to product descriptions include ‘skin friendly’ noted at SilkFred and Tilly’s, particularly when speaking to acne prone customers who’ve experienced ‘maskne’ – acne brought on by wearing a mask.
Offer size options & fit detail
Dillard’s uses the term ‘comfortable’ most and stock a number of styles that come in a range of sizes rather than a one size fits all. SLIP at Nordstrom features an ‘adjustable metal nose piece’ – with extra details you can command a higher price.
Explore silk options & matching sets
51% of silk masks sit at $20-40 in the US and 38% between £20-40 in the UK. Dolce & Gabbana’s matching silk PJ sets are upwards of £945/$1,193 while Revolve offer one for $21. In The Style’s most recent line with Gemma Collins has matching printed pieces that extend to masks at a much lower price point.
3. Fill the gap in the sports market
Under Armour’s Sportmask sold out in hours
This demonstrates demand. There’s no other retailer with anything close on the market. On UA’s product page shoppers are invited to sign up to notifications for when the item is available again. The mask has an adjustable nose bridge, comes in four sizes and is designed with three layers of different fabrics. Spacer fabric which helps create air pockets to create structure, breathable open-cell foam and the inside layer uses Iso-Chill technology that disperses heat.
Branch out beyond black
Those released by sports retailers have largely been plain black with a small white logo placement. While there’s a place for these subtle designs, those in the sports market should be offering something different too – be that a product more performance based or aesthetically alternative. Forever 21’s Three-Piece Set, though not an overtly technical design speaks to consumers who are keen to return to the gym, feel good in what they are wearing and feel safe.
Nike’s offering focuses on warmth
We’ve tracked snoods at Nike coming to market in October 2018 and its updated styles across Sep/Oct 2019. In April, Nike launched a similar product ahead of schedule. There appears to be no tweaking of the product description to make it coronavirus related, the main focus of function is to keep warm. The latest style launched by Nike is with its VaporKnit fabric which also make no reference to aiding prevention of spreading or catching coronavirus.
4. Formal functions
Decorative coverings to sit over regular masks
Revolve is one retailer that has released a mask covering. The chainmail product comes with a jersey mask to wear underneath. Designers should think outside the box, but ensure that new developments are still functional and provide the required protection.
Reserve a small run of fabric to create matching masks with. Ensure that the items sit as a product suggestion on the page with the coordinating garments. BHLDN has even launched masks that compliment bridal dresses.
Packs of masks can feel fresh with multiple colorways or patterns in them. These can make those who are on a budget feel like they are getting more value and variation for money and can compliment more of their daily situations. Consider offering packs that feature different sizes that can fit across different family members.
Bumper accessories packs
Multi-packs don’t have to be constricted to just multiple masks. SHEIN offers variations of masks with matching hair accessories in bundles.
Also to consider
• If you have outlets in travel hubs, ensure you are stocking masks in these locations. Similarly, as people begin to fly again masks should become a key part of your vacation story communications.
• Making shoppers feel more comfortable in stores by distributing free masks.
• As it becomes essential to wear masks in stores in multiple regions – ‘need a spare?’ or ‘be prepared’ framed stories can work. A spare mask to leave in the car or have in a bag.
• As we edge towards the holiday season, novelty masks could become the new novelty jumper. Similarly Halloween is fast approaching. Offer personalized options and interchangeable features to suit celebrations or moods.
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