A lot’s changed since you last hit the shops. And as non-essential retail springs back to life this week, the latest sci-fi offering along the high street is a vending machine that, instead of snacks and fizzy drinks, solely stocks face masks.
It’s a smart idea, though: face coverings have now been made compulsory on public transport, and the advice is that you should wear one in enclosed public spaces where social distancing might be more of a challenge (although it’s yet to be made mandatory in shops). So if the high street proves harder to navigate in these strange new times than you first imagined – or if you simply forgot to pack a fashion-ready bandana – these vending machines could prove pretty useful.
The innovation comes from Maskey, an Essex-based start-up for our times that is making reusable face masks in a range of styles and sizes, with each one costing from £6 to £15. The company launched online amid the current crisis and now that lockdown is loosening up, it’s selling masks via nifty vending machines – the first of their kind to hit the UK.
So far, Vendamask machines have been installed in ten UK locations, with four of them in Greater London. The one that’s likely to see the most action is placed inside Hamleys’ flagship store on Regent Street, but others can be found Chigwell, Loughton and Woodford. Maskey says it’ll be adding 20 further machines in the next week, with a surge in demand from retailers now shops have reopened. Machines can stock up to 450 face masks at a time, and use contactless payment technology.
‘The idea came about from seeing machines being used in other countries to make masks easily accessible, convenient and comfortable for people,’ said Maskey founder Adam Freeman, who believes there will be 50 machines up and running in the UK by the end of July.
Maskey’s cotton face coverings are machine washable and also available in child-friendly sizes. The company offers personalised coverings for an extra charge and is currently working on masks with a see-through pane to enable lip-reading for the hard of hearing. Ten percent of the profit from each mask purchased will go to Freeman’s charity Lenderhand, which is supporting those in need in Essex during the current crisis.
Feeling more extreme about social distancing? Check out the Tube Tube, a £95 safety garment nobody asked for.