Local man sets up business selling face masks in vending machines
A local man who was ‘frustrated’ at being unable to access face masks at the beginning of the global Covid-19 pandemic has set up a company to sell face coverings in vending machines.
The first vending machine supplied by Massk Store was installed in City of Derry Airport earlier this month.
The Eglinton based company has now secured a deal to provide a machine to a shopping centre in London.
Sam Harding, who set up Massk Store with his business partner Steve Stewart just four weeks ago, is also in discussions to install the vending machines at various locations across the North and in England.
They aim to have the machines in locations that are convenient to communities so the masks are accessible to all.
Easy access to masks will become ever more important in the coming weeks as people are being advised to wear them in shops, something which could become mandatory by August 20.
They are already required for public transport and air travel.
The masks in Massk Store vending machines are comfortable, breathable, adjustable, washable and reusable.
“When developing our masks we wanted to make sure that we offer something that our customers will feel comfortable wearing,” Sam explained. “We also wanted them to be something people can keep, instead of making use of disposable masks that are thrown away after one use, and to keep the supply of the surgical masks for the NHS.”
Sam said he had the idea for masks sold in vending machines while he was living in Hong Kong a number of years ago.
“Masks are very much a part of life there since the SARS virus and there are vending machines on almost every street corner. I always thought it would be a good idea to sell them in vending machines in places where they are easily accessible, but never did anything about it.
“At the start of the Covid pandemic I found it very frustrating trying to get masks for myself, my wife and my children. I decided it was time to do something with my idea.
“I worked in retail for a number of years and reached out to my contacts to start the business and get a supply of comfortable and reusable masks.”
The vending machines are contactless, although they are able to accept cash payments, and in order to purchase a mask there will be minimum contact with the machine.
“I personally believe there will be a demand for masks for the next year and we hope to make them more accessible. As well as the vending machines we will also be selling them online.”