A lot of sellers did well selling cloth masks. Now some shops are turning to vaccine-themed gear.
Etsy sellers are racing to meet growing demand for all sorts of vaccine-related gear — from “Fauci Ouchie” buttons to “Pfizer Alumni” T-shirts to protective cases sized for a CDC card — especially as more and more people getting the jab look to celebrate the milestone.
The popularity of vaccine-themed swag is a sign that people aren’t just showing up to get their shot, they’re actually excited to share news of their inoculation and spread the word. That enthusiasm is important as vaccine eligibility continues to open up across the United States and public health campaigns continue to try to reach Americans that are still apprehensive about getting the shot.
Nate Duval, a Massachusetts-based Etsy seller who has been making enamel pins for the past five years, told Recode that out of the many products available on his Etsy shop, the most popular item right now is a blue-and-purple pin that reads “Covid-19 Vaccinated.” He said it’s just the latest product that’s done well amid the pandemic, when sales for items like cloth masks and puzzles have taken off.
“The original concept was thinking of front-line workers, doctors, the elderly, etc.,” Duval said in an email, “but I quickly discovered that the appeal of this idea was far beyond just doctors.”
It’s not just buttons and pins. Etsy sellers are also cashing in on people eager to advertise their vaccination status with all kinds of merch. There are face masks and bracelets that declare the wearer “Vaccinated,” Covid-19 vaccine badge clips, and “Fauci Ouchie” stickers. There’s also plenty of clothing, including T-shirts referencing Hamilton lyrics like “I am not throwin’ away my shot.”
Some sellers are flogging more practical vaccine card sleeves, which are meant to protect the relatively flimsy paper cards bearing the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) insignia that people have been receiving after their inoculations. Other available options are more zany, like Moderna- and Pfizer-themed tumbler cups and this Covid-19 virus-shaped foam party hat complete with an image of a syringe and “Vaccinated” printed on it.
Vaccine merchandise is selling well. One Etsy seller told Recode that in the past month their shop has sold hundreds of vaccine-themed clothing items. “Pretty soon, people are going to want them for the kids as well. So I’ll be adding those sizes,” said the seller, who asked to remain anonymous so as not to draw too much attention to their shop. “Then we’ll be adding maybe some totes and some other various products.”
Mark W. Gray, a California-based cinematographer who operates an Etsy shop, said that a batch of 500 of his “Fully Vaccinated” pins sold out in just three days, and he’s since sold more than 1,500 on the online marketplace. He added that he’s seen a surge in other vaccine-themed merch, pointing to products he sees online from sellers who use print-on-demand companies like Zazzle and Cafe Press. It seems as though competition is heating up.
“If someone just Googles ‘I want to get a vaccinated shirt,’ they’re going to see the first 50 that pop up out of God knows how many that are actually there,” Gray said. “So it’s kind of lucky for me that people liked my design and I got in early enough.”
The race to produce vaccine-themed gear points to Etsy’s broader success as an online marketplace during the pandemic. The company’s stock price has surged steadily since Covid-19 first hit, with its sellers finding opportunities amid increased demand for household goods as people spent more time at home and shopping online.
“The data shows people who’ve never shopped on Etsy, or people who haven’t been back in a while or haven’t been back very often, are suddenly coming to Etsy, and they’re coming to Etsy a lot more often,” the company’s CEO Josh Silverman told NPR Marketplace last May. He estimated at least 60,000 sellers on the site had produced cloth masks and sold them on the platform.
Of course, not all the vaccine-themed gear online is celebrating inoculations. On Amazon, it’s easy to find “anti-vaccine” shirts that link pesticides and GMOs to vaccinations, or on Etsy, a T-shirt that declares that the wearer will not “be blackmailed” into carrying a vaccine passport.
Still, overall, some sellers see their vaccine-product-related success as a sign that they can pick up business based on the news cycle and current events — and even encourage others to get the jab as shots become available. Pennsylvanian Jamie Earl, who sells buttons on Etsy, said that while he lost business on political-themed pins as in-person campaigning came to halt, he’s since recouped some of his losses by transitioning to various pandemic-themed buttons.
Earl told Recode he’s already sold more than 400 “Fauci Ouchie!” vaccine-themed buttons, after noticing earlier on in the pandemic that various Anthony Fauci-themed products “sold really well.”
“When people see others displaying the fact that they’ve got their vaccination, and they encourage others,” Earl said, that helps the whole community. “I hope it helps people who are really reticent to get their vaccination.”
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