UK start-up Maskey has installed 10 vending machines in the past month as it seeks to address consumer demand for face masks – and expects growth to accelerate as the government makes wearing them mandatory in certain situations.
Maskey, which manufactures masks in the UK, has also seen online sales ‘soar’ to 3,500 a week after just 5 weeks of trading. The company has responded by increasing its daily production to 2,500, in anticipation of a surge in demand. It aims to build up to stocks of 20,000.
Maskey, which has manufacturing bases in Essex and London, was ‘behind the UK’s first mask vending machine’, called Vendamask, in Chigwell, Essex, last month. The company also sells direct to the public from its website.
The company aims to place its vending machines in high-footfall locations close to tube stations as HMG makes wearing face coverings on public transport mandatory in England. Maskey also scored a PR six-hit when one of its machines was installed in iconic London store Hamleys. The immediate goal is to expand the machine park to 40 units. The colourful cotton cloth coverings are washable, come in a range of patterns and retail from £6 – £15.
There is also a range for children aged 5 to 13. In addition to online and vending channels, there’s also a dedicated retail outlet at Woodford, Essex.
‘We have continually scaled up our production over the past few weeks to meet increasing demand, taking on new machinists, finding more space for them to work and making more room to build up stock to meet the increasing demand that will be a consequence of legislation’ Founder Adam Freeman said. ‘We have been inundated with requests from both shopping centres and businesses, keen to have their own vending machine installed for the convenience of staff and customers.’
Maskey’s technology allows face coverings to be personalised by the addition of logos or names, a facility that is already proving popular. The company is exploring the possibility of producing a mask that incorporates a clear window around the mouth, to make lip-reading possible. The inspiration for that came because a Maskey co-founder has a brother who suffers from hearing loss.
The vending machines – some of which can hold up to 450 coverings – have a reader for contactless payments from cards or smartphones. They are refurbished to order and installed within days.
‘We’ve been stunned by how fast we have grown’, Adam said. ‘The idea came about from seeing machines being used in other countries to make masks easily accessible
‘Maskey products have no scientific or medical benefit, but covering your face is believed to help to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We hope that, by creating masks that look good and are comfortable to wear, more people will be inclined to wear them.’
The use of machines is catching on… ‘Based on conversations I am having now, I believe we will have 50 vending machines in place around the UK by the end of July’, Adam said. ‘All the businesses we are speaking to are looking for ways to keep both staff and customers safe at this difficult time. It is clear they feel that wearing face coverings will give people the confidence to get back out and about in this ‘new normal’.’
Maskey is donating 10% of the profit of every mask sold to a charity Adam has set up called Lenderhand. The charity has already raised more than £40,000 to help people in need with things such as food and everyday necessities. Much-needed PPE supplies and food parcels have also been donated to hospitals and care homes across London and Essex.
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