‘Fauci ouchie’: small online sellers find lifeline in vaccine-themed merchandise
Small online sellers who were affected by the pandemic have switched to selling quirky vaccine-themed items in order to regain income lost.
On the shopping platform Etsy items such as “Vaccinated” badges, Moderna cup holders and “Pfizer alumni” T-shirts have been big sellers, and have provided small businesses with economic respite after the ravages of last year.
Manuel Rojas, the head of sales at Foam Party Hats, said: “During last year our business was greatly affected by the pandemic, our main source of revenue is big parties and weddings [and] our sales decreased greatly.” He said that in order to keep making sales and pay their employees they came up with the idea for a “Virus” hat.
Rojas said it was a huge success and savedthe business, leading to an appearance on the TV show Shark Tank, the US version of Dragons’ Den. The company followed it up with the “Vaccinated” hat, which is proving very popular with customers, Rojas added.
Another seller Nate Duval was struggling in the music industry just as the pandemic hit and the sector shut down. “I worked in the music industry for the past 15 year and, when the concert industry went away last year, I took a hard pivot into just focusing on my own e-commerce brand,” he said. His cartoon, smiley face Happy Vax badge is his bestselling item, and Duval said he was having “one of the best business years of my life”.
He ssaid that with the badge he “wanted to make a very fun, positive image that would be easy to read”. Originally he wanted to make something for “frontline workers, doctors, the elderly”. But quickly he “discovered that the appeal of this idea was far beyond just doctors”.
One of the biggest sellers at the Etsy store MumsMaskShop are the vaccination card protectors. Kristie Turck got the idea as she was volunteering at a mass vaccination site. “I was helping book people for the 2nd vaccination shot and several couples were talking about getting their vaccination cards laminated for safekeeping and that is when I had the idea for the re-sealable vaccination card,” she said. The waterproof card holders are designed to keep a record of doses on it.
These vaccination or Covid-themed items may be disposable but they serve an important purpose. “We have a natural urge to commemorate the experience we’ve lived through together,” said the US sticker artist Haley Annette, whose “I got that Fauci ouchie” sticker, which is named after Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious diseases expert, has been her biggest seller.
While these items have allowed business owners such as Duval to give a “sigh of e-commerce relief”, he said: “After a year of constantly purchasing less fun stuff like extra toilet paper, disposable masks and hand sanitiser [these are] positive but still useful items to buy.”
While bricks and mortar shops closed, e-commerce sites such as Etsy, along with eBay and Shopify experienced a boom last year. Forbes reported that the number of active sellers on Etsy increased by 62% in 2020 to 4.3 million, with sales doubling to £7.3bn.
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