The rise of the online PPE industry

Buying your Personal Protective Equipment online is nothing new. Up until recently, however, most individuals still shopped in person for their safety wear. This has changed as Grace Murphy of explains.

Over the last decade, more and more people are becoming internet savvy than ever before and are logging onto their computers to shop. This has led to a dramatic decrease in foot traffic for brick and mortar stores.

These stats speak for themselves:

  • The number of brick and mortar stores that closed in 2019 was up by 27% compared to 2018.
  • Since 2001, online retail sales have increased by over 300%.
  • At this point in time, retail sales make up for 12.5% compared to only 9% in 2017.
  • 35% of all adults shop exclusively through their smartphones.

Looking at the stats and the state of online shopping from the last ten years, what we can see is that there is a natural adoption curve. Internet shopping is going to take over. It wasn’t a matter of “if” it was just a matter of “when.”

And then COVID-19 decided to speed up the process.

Now, more then ever, the focus on keeping people safe has been a terrific driving force for the PPE industry, particularly the online PPE e-commerce industry. The new rules and regulations put in place by the government require employers and employees alike to follow strict new guidelines in regard to their personal safety.

In fact, with the catalyst that is COVID-19, the global Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) industry is set to generate all-time revenues of over $97 billion million by 2026.

Now, online retailers are facing new problems, companies that were struggling to stay afloat in the previous market, have found themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum, struggling to keep up with the influx of orders that are coming in.

The problem now lies on keeping supply chains and boosting the manufacturing process.

The new problems online retailers face

  • The new pandemic has led to a demand for PPE that the world has never seen before. Gloves, masks, goggles, gowns, and overalls are being bought up and sold at an unprecedented rate.
  • Many companies are beginning to realize that their supply chains are not as secure as they thought. With so many things being produced in foreign countries and so much demand, many manufacturers simply cannot get the raw goods in or specialist parts to keep up with the demand. Most of this production, around 70%, happens in Asian countries. When China had an early outbreak, they created a huge demand, and many Asian countries simply moved to export their goods to China.
  • The FDA has had to waive some of its strict regulations through something called Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). This allows products approved by NIOSH, to be used as critical PPE for healthcare workers.

The Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) sums it up best.

“The chronic, global shortage of personal protective equipment is one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives” – WHO Director Tedros Adhanom, 27th March 2020.


Rising to the challenge

Luckily, as we have proven in the last year, as humans, we are incredibly resilient. When things get challenging, we adapt and rise to the challenge.

Online retailers every single day are doing just that, adapting. They are revamping their online presence, fighting to secure supply chains, and working hard every single day to make sure that as consumers, we still have access to everything we need.

Take the online marketplace Brooklyn Equipment for instance. They have been moving inventory from virtual shopfronts for years now. Despite the media saying that PPE is in short supply, they’re keeping most of their products in stock and are shipping very quickly.

Over the coming years, we are going to see adaptation on an unprecedented scale. The slow, steady takeover of online stores has been thrown into a vat of coffee and red-bull and has been drastically sped up.

For those too stubborn to shop online, or too stubborn to create an online store for their business, they may face edging themselves out entirely. We see it every day, especially in the current economy.

Businesses close because they aren’t getting the foot traffic, and people are risking their health to go shopping when they could do so safely from their own home.

Those that were lucky enough to have an online presence, or who moved online at the start of the crisis, are going to take the lions to share for once, taking over the industry. They get the traffic that an online shop can create, as well as the newly converted online shoppers who are just beginning to find their virtual feet.

In the end, the outcome is clear-cut. The online PPE industry is changing the same way that many other industries are changing, simply faster due to the part, they play in the current climate. The online takeover has begun, and you either adapt or fall behind.


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