Coronavirus

Even stocking stuffers will look different for a COVID Christmas

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(CNN) — The pervasive reach of the pandemic hasn’t even spared the holiday tradition of the Christmas stocking.

A host of stores like Gap, Nordstrom, Vera Bradley and others have incorporated 2020’s must-have accessory into their holiday stocking stuffer ads as they cash in on what’s predicted to be a billion dollar market.

Holiday ads from Vera Bradley, a brand known for its iconic paisley-printed bags and accessories, tout face masks as the “It” stocking stuffer gift of 2020

Nordstrom has created a stocking stuffer mask guide on its website featuring a variety of reusable face coverings, including four-pack mask sets with festive prints for $25.

And children’s clothing retailer Hanna Andersson showcased its reindeer and Christmas tree-printed face mask stocking stuffer sets in a holiday ad that was emailed to customers last week.

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Kristin Smith, senior vice president, digital, at Hanna Andersson said that because the holiday-themed masks have been very popular with shoppers, the retailer decided to offer them in adult sizes as well.

Marketing masks as stocking stuffers is a smart move this holiday season, said Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry analyst with NPD Group, a market research firm.

If it’s any encouragement to retailers, an NPD report, based on a survey of 3,429 consumers in September, showed that three in 10 shoppers plan to gift masks as stocking stuffers.

Aside from the protection factor, Cohen said masks have evolved into statement pieces. “Consumers are wearing masks bearing a political statement, or a logo of their favorite designer, or brand,” he said.

And there could be one additional benefit. “If you know someone who’s been resistant to wearing a mask, gifting one could make them less resistant,” said Cohen.

In a matter of months, the market for disposable face masks has ballooned from niche to logging hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, with some estimates for it to hit as much as $1 billion in sales by 2021, assuming that 50% of the US population will be wearing a reusable mask by this time next year.

Stores are also incorporating holiday designs onto the masks.

“For example, Old Navy is highlighting festive holiday prints for the family from candy canes to dinosaurs in Santa hats… Gap has [masks with] inspirational statements, and Banana Republic has sequins and inclusive shades of masks as part of their True Hues collection,” a Gap spokesperson said in an email to CNN Business.

For Gap Inc., reusable face masks now account for 4% of total sales across its brands and have brought in new customers, the company said.

“Because the use of masks now is ubiquitous, they’ve become the most desired fashion accessory of the year,” said Burt Flickinger, retail industry expert and managing director with Strategic Resource Group. “I don’t think face masks will eclipse gift cards in terms of total dollar sales this year but in terms of total units sold, they will challenge gift cards for the no. 1 slot in the Christmas stocking.”

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