‘Everyone just wanted one thing, face masks’

As the coronavirus continues to have an immense impact globally, many states in the U.S. are requiring people to wear face masks or coverings in public to help minimize the spread of the virus.

Etsy (ETSY) CEO Josh Silverman told Yahoo Finance’s On the Move that after the CDC updated its guidelines recommending Americans wear face masks in public, “we effectively woke up to discover traffic that was similar to Cyber Monday, but everyone in the world wanted only one product, which is a fabric face mask.”

Silverman said that because face masks were in such limited supply at that time, the company was forced to update its website in several ways.

“At that moment, if you searched for masks, we were delivering Halloween masks and face cream, which is what masks had always meant to our search engine before,” he said.

The next step was recruiting sellers. “Within two weeks, we’d recruited over 20,000 sellers, and at this point there’s over 60,000 sellers that are making and selling masks on Etsy, and we continue to sell hundreds of thousands of masks per day,” he said.

UKRAINE – 2020/03/17: In this photo illustration an Etsy logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Silverman was quick to point out that a top priority at Etsy is ensuring no false medical claims are made by any sellers.

“We’re not claiming that fabric face masks will protect you from COVID,” he said.

He also said they had to form a plan to get these masks to customers quickly and efficiently.

“One seller could get thousands of sales in a day, but then it would take them a long time to be able to fulfill those orders,” said Silverman. “So we’ve modified our search engine so that demand gets really distributed across all of these tens of thousands of sellers.”

Although many of his sellers have done well, Silverman said some – like those focused on the wedding category – have encountered tough times due to the pandemic; wedding-related purchases are down 50% year-over-year on Etsy.

Despite some drawbacks, he said masks weren’t the only big story for Etsy in April; non-mask sales were also up 79% year-over-year.

McKenzie DeGroot is a producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @degrootmckenzie

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