17 Jul Maskey, the Essex startup founded in lockdown expands as masks become mandatory in shops
Maskey – the brand behind the UK’s first mask vending machines – has signed a deal with leading British retailer WHSmith to stock its individual fashionable face coverings on the shelves of hundreds of outlets on high streets and in train stations, airports and hospitals.
The company, which only launched in May, has scaled up production levels by 10x in recent weeks and massively expanded its range of colours, designs and patterns.
It is now forecasting it will make tens of thousands of its colourful coverings available in retail through the initial stages of the WHSmith partnership – and these will start hitting shops from Monday (July 20).
With the Government announcing it will be mandatory for customers to wear a covering in most shops and supermarkets from July 24, the Essex-based brand is currently producing 25,000 individually-packaged products a week at its London factory. They come in sizes for adults and children (aged 5-10) and in WHSmith stores will cost £7.99 / £5.99.
Additionally – in another piece of good news that signals strong and fast growth for Maskey – it will see its 50th Vendamask mask vending machine in place by the end of July. Already these can be found across the country, near tube stations, in shopping centres and within prestigious stores such as Hamleys in London’s Regents Street. The first was launched in Essex in May.
Maskey founder Adam Freeman said: “What we have achieved so far as a company in such a short time is phenomenal. We have repurposed an existing tailoring business, given work to 40 people and because our face coverings are washable and reusable, we are ensuring wearing one does not contribute to landfill waste. We believe they are also far more comfortable for longer periods of wear than paper alternatives.
“None of our products are imported. They are all made in London and I see that as important because it means we are contributing to the economic recovery here in the UK.”
He added: “I am so proud to have signed this amazing partnership with WHSmith and it will take our operations to another level, allowing us to employ even more people and grow as a business. I can’t wait to see our products on the shelves of this iconic British retailer.
“Given we are only in month three of trading, it just goes to show what can happen when you have a simple idea and take action on it fast. This is just the start for Maskey.”
Maskey is now selling more than 5,000 fashionable face coverings per week for adults and children through its vending machines and online website – maskey.uk. It is seeing an average of 2,500 visits to its website every single day. These face coverings cost between £6.99 and £11.99.
Adam Freeman said: “July is proving a momentous month for us. Not only have we agreed the deal with WHSmith but we will see our 50th Vendamask vending machine in place by the end of it. These are sited as far afield as Essex and Scotland and we are still getting requests every day from companies, shopping centres and other businesses about providing one.
“I think this will only increase as more people start going back to work in their offices, especially because we are able to personalise them with logos as well as company and individual staff names.
“We do not claim our masks have any scientific or medical benefit but as we have seen from Government, local Government and scientific recommendations, covering your face is believed to help to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We hope that by creating masks that look good, more people will feel comfortable enough to wear them, whether on public transport or inside shops as of next week, and in situations where they feel it is needed.”
Maskey’s vending machines – some of which can hold up to 450 coverings – have a reader for contactless payments from cards or smartphones and are made to order then installed within days.
Maskey’s face coverings can be ordered by members of the public for individual use or by companies for offices, workplaces, restaurants, pubs, public spaces and many more. Personalisation and branding is an extra charge. They are made by a team of machinists who wear a mask and gloves and are then steamed and put into a plastic covering. Maskey’s factory has mandatory face mask and gloves rules.
Mr Freeman is also donating 10% from the profits to the charity he set up – Lenderhand (Registered Charity Number 1161794). So far during the coronavirus crisis, the charity has raised more than £50,000 to help people with food and everyday necessities while also donating PPE supplies and food parcels to hospitals and care homes in London and Essex.