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Face Masks Provide Advertising Space For Retailers During Coronavirus Crisis : NPR

Old Navy, a subsidiary of Gap, began selling nonmedical face masks in early May.

MB Internal Studio/Old Navy


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MB Internal Studio/Old Navy

Old Navy, a subsidiary of Gap, began selling nonmedical face masks in early May.

MB Internal Studio/Old Navy

Retailers across the apparel world are turning to the newest essential garment to further their brand recognition and boost sales: the nonmedical face mask.

Nordstrom announced Tuesday it would begin selling face masks for $4 each in packs of six. The move comes just weeks after the Seattle-based retailer announced it would permanently shutter 16 stores after the coronavirus pandemic forced all of its locations to close.

Nordstrom began selling nonmedical cloth face masks Tuesday. Two days later, the masks had sold out on Nordstrom’s website.

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Nordstrom began selling nonmedical cloth face masks Tuesday. Two days later, the masks had sold out on Nordstrom’s website.

Nordstrom

The company is the latest in a string of apparel brands to add face masks to its repertoire as demand continues to grow. Retail giants like The Gap and its subsidiaries, Banana Republic, Athleta and Old Navy, also began selling masks earlier this month.

Despite the recent flood of new brands offering masks, the product is selling out across the market. Nordstrom’s packs of masks are sold out just two days after coming on the scene, and many of Gap’s masks are on back order until mid-June. Kim Kardashian West’s brand SKIMS began selling face masks May 16 and sold out hours later.

However, selling out is not so much a function of demand as it is a reflection of the uncertainty looming over the retail industry in general, retail analyst Sucharita Kodali of Forrester told NPR. Retailers have no precedent to base the volume of their supply on, and no idea how long the demand will last.

“There’s just not data,” says Kodali. “Nobody knew what to expect for what products because they’d never faced this dilemma before.”

Retailers also face a gummed-up supply chain, as many of the factories where these masks are manufactured are overseas, she says. The supply chain backups also allowed smaller companies to jump on the trend more quickly.

“The smaller companies are more nimble, they’re able to respond to changes more quickly. They see trends and they jump,” she says. “Whereas for a lot of other companies, they’re just hoping this passes. … They’re candidly just not as nimble.”

One of the nimble is e-commerce website Etsy. The site saw a giant spike of “face mask” in its search results in the first week of April, shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that face coverings be worn at all times in public, according to a company investor presentation. In April alone, the site grossed more than $130 million in face mask sales, according to the presentation.

A silk face mask made by Etsy shop MilleSaisons. The mask is a bestseller on the Etsy e-commerce website.



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MilleSaisons

A silk face mask made by Etsy shop MilleSaisons. The mask is a bestseller on the Etsy e-commerce website.



MilleSaisons

“We sold over 12 million face masks in the month of April alone,” CEO Josh Silverman said in a call with investors. “In fact, if face masks were a stand-alone category, it would have been the second biggest category on Etsy in the month of April.”

Etsy also saw a 79% increase from April of last year among other products, according to the presentation.

“I would argue they were just in the right place at the right time,” says Kodali. “When you think of who is able to consolidate the power of a million sewers in the country, the only answer is Etsy.”

Many brands are also using the worldwide demand for face masks as an opportunity to build positive engagement by making charitable donations of their face mask sales. Both Disney and the NBA have begun to sell masks with the commitment that proceeds will go to various charities. Disney, for one, took major losses in the first three months of 2020, with net income down 91% compared to the year before. Nordstrom and Gap have both donated masks to health care workers and other charitable causes.

Still, for most of the companies now selling masks, and especially for those as large as Gap and Nordstrom, Kodali says sales will not affect the bottom line. Selling the masks is more a demonstration of how flexible a company can be in the face of the unexpected.

“If you’re a retailer and you don’t have masks, that probably means you have bigger issues with your supply chain.”



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Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR

A view of Shakespeare’s Globe on the banks of the River Thames in London, in this photo dated Tuesday, April 19, 2016. The theater now faces the threat of permanent closure after coronavirus lockdowns dried up its main revenue streams.

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A view of Shakespeare’s Globe on the banks of the River Thames in London, in this photo dated Tuesday, April 19, 2016. The theater now faces the threat of permanent closure after coronavirus lockdowns dried up its main revenue streams.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

A short plea on the website of Shakespeare’s Globe theater underscores a bleak truth: “As a charity that receives no regular government subsidy, we desperately need your support, more than ever before.”

The British cultural staple is in danger of closing permanently if it does not receive adequate funding to make up for losses from coronavirus-related lockdowns, according to the theater’s leadership and documents from Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee.

The theater is a replica of the original Globe theater, built in the late 16th century by the theater company Shakespeare belonged to. The venue saw the debut of many of the bard’s plays, but burned down in 1613. The current Globe is located near the original, on the bank of the River Thames, and has been a London icon and tourist destination since it opened in 1997.

Because the Globe is not funded by the country’s Arts Council England, it has been unable to qualify for any of the £160 million (nearly $200 million) of emergency funding designed to support venues like it. Instead, the theater depends on ticket sales, workshops and other revenue streams that require in-person contact.

“A little bit like every freelancer, it’s very hand to mouth,” the Globe’s artistic director, Michelle Terry, told BBC Radio. “So when that income stops, we have the few reserves we’ve got in the bank, it’s sort of like whatever savings you’ve got, that’s how long you’ll last.”

In parliament, DCMS Committee Chairman Julian Knight has raised alarm bells about the impact of COVID-19 closures on many of the country’s cultural institutions. Knight specifically expressed concern for Shakespeare’s Globe in a letter Monday to Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

“Today the DCMS Committee is publishing evidence that lays bare the scale of the challenge facing the cultural sector, particularly theatres,” Knight wrote in the letter. “The threat to the UK’s cultural landscape is stark, from freelance producers who are ‘falling through the cracks’ of the Government’s support for the self-employed and Arts Council England’s emergency funding, to world-renowned institutions such as Shakespeare’s Globe warning of insolvency and closure.”

In response, the theater tweeted a statement from its CEO, Neil Constable. Constable expressed gratitude for Parliament’s attention, but urged the need for government support in order for many cultural institutions to stay open.

“We are proudly a part of the UK’s national identity and cultural landscape, and our survival as an organization largely depends on help from the Government to get us through this lockdown period,” the statement reads. “As we receive no regular public funding, like other independent organizations…we are in a very precarious position financially.”

The theater is currently streaming several of its plays for free on Youtube, including its most recent rendition of “Macbeth,” which had just begun performances when the theater was forced to close.



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Skateboarder Gui Khury, 11, Lands 1080-Degree Turn On A Vertical Ramp : NPR

Brazilian skater Gui Khury, 11, is the first person to complete a 1080-degree turn, or three full rotations, on a vertical ramp.

Khury broke news of his feat on his Instagram account on Friday. The video shows the skateboarder flying up off the half-pipe, spinning three times, and seamlessly skating back down. The historic move plays three times over, once in slow motion, with the caption “1080!!!I have no words to explain what just happened…”

Khury smashed the previous 900-degree record on a vertical ramp (or “vert”) held by skateboarding legend Tony Hawk. Hawk made his historic move in 1999, almost a decade before Khury was born. Since Hawk set the record, several skateboarders have matched it. Khury himself became the youngest person to successfully complete a 900 on vert at eight years old.

Khury’s video circulated widely on social media and garnered a slew of astonished reactions, especially after it was reposted by stars like Hawk.

The elusive 1080 is widely viewed as one of most difficult moves in the sport. It has only been completed successfully by a handful of skateboarders, and never on vert. In 2012, then-12-year-old Tom Schaar became the first skateboarder to complete the move. Schaar did his 1080 on a mega ramp, a larger version of the vert, which allowed him to build up more momentum.

Khury’s new achievement again brings into question whether the move might be easier for children to complete, an idea initially posed after Schaar’s feat.

The coronavirus and social distancing actually helped Khury achieve the 1080, his father Ricardo Khury Filho told Reuters. School closures in Brazil gave the young skater more time and energy than usual to practice, Filho said. His grandmother has several structures in her backyard that Khury uses to practice.

The record comes as skateboarding was set to debut as an Olympic sport at the Tokyo Summer Olympics this year. But fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has postponed the event until at least 2021, and put into question whether it will be able to happen at all.

For now, the young skater says he’s not done. He’s already moved on to his next goal: a 1260 on vert, or 3.5 rotations in the air.



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How to Watch Tonight’s Meteor Shower : NPR

The sky will provide a socially distant entertainment activity for stargazers this week: the annual Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower.

The May meteor shower is bits of ice and space dust left behind from Halley’s Comet that crash into Earth’s atmosphere, creating what we see as shooting stars. The annual shower serves as a reminder of the famed fireball only visible from Earth every 75 years or so. Its last sighting was in 1986, putting its next expected sighting in 2061.

This year’s meteor shower is expected to peak between Monday and Wednesday night, and is best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere, where the night is longer at this time of year.

But Northern Hemisphere viewers will have a chance to see the shower between 3 a.m. and dawn, International Meteor Organization Secretary General Robert Lunsford tells NPR.

“You can see them from anywhere as long as the sky is clear,” Lunsford said. But the shower won’t be as good this year as it was last May, he says, because the moon will be full on Thursday, reducing the visibility of meteors.

Viewers should look due east to see the shooting stars, which will be coming up from the horizon and moving quickly across the night sky from their origin in the constellation Aquarius.

Observers in the Northern Hemisphere can expect to see between five and 10 meteors per hour, depending on weather conditions.The more dry and clear the night, the better chance of seeing the shower. In Australia, stargazers reported up to 37 meteors per hour in good conditions.

The key to a successful shower experience, says Lunsford, is to get comfortable.

“Don’t step outside and stand there and expect to see meteor activity,” he says. Instead, he suggests grabbing a lawn chair and a warm blanket and setting up camp in the darkest area possible. “If you’re comfortable, you’re gonna see a lot more activity.”

And if being awake at 4 a.m. is not feasible, more vibrant showers including the Perseids and the Geminids will come later this year with better sky conditions in August and December.

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