When the pandemic took the world by storm in early 2020, masks suddenly became a very hot commodity. Since nobody saw the pandemic coming, legacy Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suppliers were simply unprepared for all the demand. This created a lucrative opening for a medley of new entrants, including adjacent businesses, mom-and-pops, and small brokers who saw an opportunity at a time when many of their core businesses were suffering as a result of lockdowns and restrictions. These new entrants flocked to the business of masks in the hopes of fulfilling unmet needs and profiting handsomely. Unfortunately, many of them charged excessive prices since they knew buyers had no other choice (side note: we are proud to stand behind the fact that we always charged fair prices). As the vaccines rolled out, mask mandates were ended, and 'mask fatigue' set in nationwide, that demand subsided and many of those opportunistic new entrants were left holding the bag.
In the spring of 2021, a period of heavy liquidation took place as many of those recently established mask sellers and brokers were trying to exit a market that had lost its heat. In fact, disposable masks were being sold for as low as $0.01 per piece.
As we moved into this summer, it seemed to many as though we were nearing the end of the pandemic. But in the past several weeks, cases have been rising dramatically across the nation.
Source: CDC COVID Data Tracker
The chart above was obtained from the CDC's 'COVID Data Tracker' and as you can see toward the very right of the chart, daily cases are on the rise. The delta variant is partly responsible for this upswing; according to many sources, latest evidence suggests that the delta variant is more transmissible than other variants.
Ask any seller of masks and they will tell you they have sold more masks in the last 7 days than at any point besides the peak of the pandemic. Black masks, in particular, are very difficult to find at reasonable prices. Buyers are now going after blue masks. Below are just a few of the main reasons why this is happening.
Reason #1: Surge in COVID cases
Due to the rise in cases, debates around mask and vaccination mandates are now happening across the nation. The CDC has already updated its mask guidance for vaccinated people, in recommendation of mask wearing in areas of substantial or high rates of transmission. Some states, such as Nevada and Hawaii, have decided to impose indoor mask mandates while other states, such as our home state of Florida, are opting against any health mandates. Regardless of the varying responses to the recent surge in cases, masks are now in demand once again. Hospitals, schools, and restaurants are just some of the end users responsible for the recent rush for masks - in their effort to comply with mandates (if any) and protect employees and customers.
Reason #2: Global shipping container crisis
There is an ongoing global 'shortage' of shipping containers that has afflicted international trade. The cost of freight has skyrocketed, having tripled on average, and lead times are much longer than normal. This seems to be happening primarily because thousands of containers that arrived to the Americas from Asia were not quickly loaded and sent back due to pandemic restrictions in Asia. Many have suggested that the challenge is less about an actual shortage of containers and more about the misplacement of containers. This shipping crisis means that mask sellers, who were not prepared for the recent demand surge anyway, cannot bring in more stock quickly and affordably. Shipping very large volumes of masks and paying the high freight costs in order to meet the recent demand poses a dilemma, because if this new COVID wave subsides quickly, sellers will be left with costly inventory and a familiar oversupply problem. According to our industry insights, dwindling mask inventories will not plateau or reverse course until late August or early-mid September.
Reason #3: Mask suppliers did not anticipate this
The phrase 'history repeats itself' could not be more true. It is difficult to anticipate swings like the one that is happening right now, so importers and sellers of masks did not plan for all the demand they're seeing right now. This leaves them playing catch-up as their lots get gobbled up. Many are having to raise prices, as a result, albeit not at peak pandemic levels.
Is your current supplier out of stock? Mersi Distribution can help....
While we are facing the same challenges as every supplier of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) out there, we benefit from a small but reliable network of trusted manufacturer partners that have kept us well-stocked throughout this pandemic. We still have masks available in large volumes and can support your needs. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you require a large volume of masks and we will respond to your inquiry within 30 minutes. If you are seeking to place a small order, please consider the below available products on shopmersi.com at the time of writing:
3-PLY DISPOSABLE MASKS IN BLACK:
3-PLY DISPOSABLE MASKS IN BLUE: