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Licensing Staple No More: The Decline of COVID Mask Companies

As recovery continues to take place after the COVID-19 pandemic, reports show that multiple mask companies are shutting down.

McKenna Morgan

December 8, 2023

2 Min Read
Masks featuring "SpongeBob SquarePants," "Wild N Out" and "Star Trek."
Masks featuring "SpongeBob SquarePants," "Wild N Out" and "Star Trek."Paramount

The New York Times has reported a growing number of companies that started during the COVID-19 pandemic are winding down operations, including N95 and KN95 mask providers. Mask-C, a mask company which boasted celebrity clients like Bella Hadid, Jennifer Lopez and Rihanna, announced it will close at the end of the year. Nonprofit Project N95’s will stop selling masks on Dec. 18, with an operations wind down to follow.  

These two companies had product in high demand during 2020 and 2021 but have since seen falling sales as demand decreased.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, protective face masks became part of the new normal worldwide. Along the way, face masks infiltrated apparel, makeup trends and holiday shopping lists.  

Companies jumped on board, with properties like “Sesame Street,” the Emoji company, Crayola, “SpongeBob SquarePants” and more creating licensed masks for consumers. For the duration of the pandemic, this was a huge revenue driver. 

Face masks generated $5.6 billion in sales in 2020, according to ResearchandMarkets.com and U.S. News reports that mask sales rose 24% in one week alone in mid-July of 2021 due to concerns over the Delta variant of COVID-19. 

In 2022, Grand View Research valued the disposable face mask market at $2.7 billion, less than half of the 2020 number. This decline is still happening and has resulted in the shuttering of businesses. Statista says the global face mask market is set to decline by an additional 21.69% from now until 2027.  

Masks weren’t the only COVID-19 product to get the licensing treatment. Other licensed products meant to protect the public included hand sanitizers, which IPs like The Wu-Tang Clan hopped on; and face shields celebrating icons like Frida Kahlo also hit the market. This licensed personal protection equipment gave fans access to their fandom while encouraging the following of local ordinances. 

Once these ordinances relaxed and the dangers of the pandemic began to subside with vaccination, these sales began to fall. However, since the pandemic, health and wellness as a whole have become more important to consumers, creating a more steady trend that the licensing industry can lean into. 

"Comparisons to 2020 show that revenue growth of health and wellness categories slowed in 2021 but that's just part of the story," says Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry advisor, NPD. "Retail sales revenue from those same categories, compared to 2019, have continued to grow by double-digits. This growth seems to indicate that health and wellness is an enduring pandemic trend, which could provide opportunities for continued consumer spending."   

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License Global Original

About the Author(s)

McKenna Morgan

Content Editor, License Global

McKenna Morgan is Content Editor for License Global. Based in the Santa Monica office, McKenna specializes in coverage involving non-profits, beauty and cosmetics, health and wellness, new and social media and entertainment licensing.

When McKenna isn’t covering the latest licensing news, she spends her time attending live music shows and finding her next travel destination.

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