Japan Mask Makers Seek New Revenue Streams After COVID-19 Downgrade

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A mask bearing the logo of Sharp Corp.

With a growing number of people eschewing mask-wearing following the government’s downgrading of COVID-19 last month, cosmetics firms and manufacturers of daily necessities are focusing on products related to skin care and fresh breath.

The firms expect even more people to go mask-free as temperatures increase and are attempting to cope with the dip in demand by launching value-added products.

Summer heat

Year-over-year sales of cosmetics at Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores Co.’s outlet in Kita Ward, Osaka, rose nearly 40% in May, and strong sales have consinued in June.

“I no longer wear a mask when I’m outdoors and not talking with people,” said a 27-year-old female company employee from Nara Prefecture, who was visiting the store on the evening of June 9.” I came to buy a new lip balm for summer.”

According to an April survey by major cosmetics maker Mandom Corp., 33.7% of 401 men and women ages 15-29 said they would cease to wear a mask as the temperature rises. Makers of cosmetics and daily necessities are viewing the tendency as a good business opportunity.

“More people will become concerned about skin problems and fresh breath, which they weren’t worrying about while wearing masks,” said an official at a major cosmetics company.

In February, Rohto Pharmaceutical Co. launched a new sunscreen said to make skin look brighter. The product has proved popular among women in their 30s and 40s, generating sales 10% higher than projected.

Similarly, sales of Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co.’s Breath Care mouth-freshener marked year-over-year sales growth of 15.9% for the January-March period. Mandom, meanwhile, is focusing on promoting its facial oil blotting paper.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A customer tries lip balm at Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores Co.’s outlet in Kita Ward, Osaka.

Solid demand

Mask-manufacturing firms are addressing the drop in decline by launching new products.

Major home appliance maker Sharp Corp. — which has been producing face masks since March 2020 amid short supplies of the product — has introduced new versions with ear strings in a variety of colors that can be matched to a user’s clothes or mood. Although mask production has little to do with its core business, Sharp does not intend to withdraw from the market, believing there is firm ongoing demand for the product.

Iris Ohyama Inc., meanwhile, is considering developing new products including wet wipes and pet-care products using non-woven fabrics — the same material used to manufacture masks. “We’ll study ways to utilize the technologies we use for mask production,” a company official said.