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Gap and Etsy make millions on masks amid pandemic sales slump

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Gap and its family of brands, including Athleta, Banana Republic and others, sold $130 million worth of masks in its most recently completed quarter as wearing a face covering to stop the spread of coronavirus became an essential part of everyday life.

Its CEO Sonia Syngal said on the company's second quarter earnings call last week that the mask sales buoyed the retailer amid a pandemic-induced sales slump

Online marketplace Etsy, which allows makers from all over the world to sell handmade wares, also reported an unusually high volume of mask sales last quarter. It helped more than 100,000 vendors sell $346 million worth of face coverings during the pandemic. Mask sales reflected 14% of total sales across the platform, the company said in its second quarter earnings report.

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Masks sales have helped float other retailers, too, whose sales of apparel, accessories, housewares and other goods slid during countrywide restrictions on business.

Gap is even looking beyond its normal consumer business when it comes to masks. The retail giant invested in a push to sell 10 million reusable cloth masks directly to companies and governments as the economy reopened for business. Its clients include the City of New York, the State of California, health care company Kaiser Permanente, as well as an unnamed, leading consulting firm, Gap said in a July press release.

Chelsea, Massachusetts-based family-owned manufacturer Steele Canvas, which usually makes industrial-style laundry baskets, storage containers, chairs and totes, faced having to lay off some of its roughly 70-person staff in March when business started to slow because of the pandemic. 

Instead, shifting to mask-making helped save their jobs. To-date, the company has sold roughly 150,000, or $1.5 million worth of masks through its e-commerce site as well as partnerships with national retailers like Crate and Barrel and The Container Store.

"It's not a business most of us thought we would be in or even want to be in, long term, but we are still selling hundreds of masks every single day," said Ryan Huston, the company's marketing director. "We are definitely relying on it and it has helped us get through this period."

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