Masking the problems of retail – soaring online mask sales highlight their lack of availability in stores

The home delivery specialist ParcelHero welcomes the introduction of mandatory face masks for shoppers but warns the rocketing number of mask deliveries emphasises a lack of availability in the High Street.

The mandatory use of face masks in all shops in England from 24 July has been welcomed by the home delivery expert ParcelHero, which says it will help restore consumer confidence and High Street sales. However, the e-commerce delivery specialist says the distribution and availability of face masks and PPE equipment is still patchy and underdeveloped. Since December, ParcelHero has seen mask shipments soar by around 275% every month and it is now delivering thousands of masks to the UK and overseas.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, says supermarkets and other convenience stores need to start urgently stocking masks. Says David:

‘We welcome the news that face masks will become mandatory in English shops; the move is not before time. Frankly, however, there needs to be much greater availability in supermarkets and corner stores. Why can I buy a huge TV in my local supermarket, something I purchase once every blue moon, but I still can’t be sure to find face masks that I’ll need on a regular basis?

‘Britain’s supermarkets have been slow to rise to the demand for masks. Until shortly before face masks became compulsory on public transport on 15 June, most supermarkets didn’t want to know. As late as this May they claimed they were not stocking masks for fear they would be diverting stock away from the NHS. It wasn’t until last month that Aldi finally led the way and introduced the sale of non-medical face masks in its middle aisle.
‘In stark contrast, face masks were in plentiful supply online on sites such as Amazon and eBay. Etsy alone sold more than 12 million face masks in April, bringing in around $133 million (£108 million) in sales and making it the second-largest category of product sales on the website. These numbers are backed by ParcelHero’s own figures. We’ve never seen anything like the increase in demand for one particular kind of item, from relatively few deliveries in December to huge volumes today.

‘It’s great that now some stores such as the Co-op, Tesco, Aldi and Asda are stocking masks ready for 24 July. They now need to reduce the number of ‘out of stocks’ on these items significantly. Stores should also look again at the limited range of facial coverings they offer. People who need to take extra care or who are shielding need to be aware that, even though some supermarkets are selling both disposable and re-usable masks, none are selling medical-grade masks because of the pressure the NHS is under to maintain vital supplies. Pharmacy chains such as Boots and Superdrug and many local chemists are selling a wider range but, as we all know, many chemists are currently very busy, so are not always the most convenient option.

‘Online sellers stepped up early to meet the soaring demand for face masks and other PPE equipment of all grades, but if High Street stores are hoping to see a return to pre-Covid sales, they must start stocking a wider range of face masks now.

‘PPE sellers can find a huge range of courier services listed on the ParcelHero website.