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Coronavirus' merchandising is going viral

The web is on fire with Coronavirus merchandising: tees, hoodies, mugs and stickers make fun of the epidemic

Coronavirus' merchandising is going viral The web is on fire with Coronavirus merchandising: tees, hoodies, mugs and stickers make fun of the epidemic

It's official: the Coronavirus has arrived in Italy and the Country is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. While the shelves of every supermarket near Milan gets empty and every pack of the Amuchina hygienizer runs out of stock (some of them have reached the record prize of 100€), on some famous online retailers like Amazon and Ebay users have found new ways to capitalize the sanitary crisis. In a similar way as happened with Baby Yoda, it's time to say that the Coronavirus merchandising is officially born. 

The fashion industry has already taken advantage of this new "market" opportunity: face-masks all over the world have reached record prices. In Italy, where you can usually buy a it for 1€, in these days they've been sold for more than 20€. But the highest point has been reached with the commercialization of a face-mask by Gucci (which is no related to the Italian fashion group), a face-mask by Supreme (which we've talked about a few weeks ago on nss magazine) and a brand new monogram version by Fendi, that is currently selling for 190€ on the online shop of Luisa Via Roma (for the record: it's already sold out).

In this "Coronavirus commodification", Ebay and Amazon are the main rulers (who else?). In fact, in the past few days they've been selling t-shirts with ironic prints as "I survived Coronavirus 2020" and "Straight Outta Wuhan". Sometimes, their irony has not been appreciated - as in the case of a "Coronavirus - made in China" tee that has been highly condemned by Chinese consumers (it's not the first time that Jeff Bezos' group swims in dangerous waters, as it recently happened with the "Free Hong Kong, Democracy Now" t-shirts).

Far from Amazon and Ebay, online shops as Teepublic and Red Bubble are full with tees, hoodies and stickers, pillows and copybooks with the most crazy prints. There's the hoodie that identifies you as "Coronavirus resistant", as well as a t-shirt with the evergreen-slogan "Keep calm and resist Coronavirus" and another one with the list of all the precautions to avoid the virus. Meanwhile, an unofficial site named The Coronavirus Shop is selling all kinds of merch, including mugs. More than that, the downloads of Plague Inc. have gone crazy: it's a real-time strategy simulation game whose purpose is to exterminate the population of the World with and epidemic before a cure it's found.

The choice of Amazon and Ebay has obviously generated a lot of controversies. That's why much of those products have already been taken out of commerce. For now, Amazon has not made an official statement, while Ebay publicly apologized for the mistake and has published its "disaster and tragedy policy": "Listings and items that graphically portray, glorify, or attempt to profit from human tragedy or suffering, or that are insensitive to victims of such events, are not allowed."

"It's unethical, but I'm not surprised." - said Chuck Welch, founder of Rupture Studio, a creative agency based in New York; "We're in a reaction age. When a trend or an outbreak happens, people jump on it for good or bad. People capitalize on that attention. We're an attention economy and retailers are going to go and turn that into dollars."

More than ever, this phenomenon re-opens the eternal dilemma about whether it's fair or not to make fun of an occurrence that's so dramatic. RT (Russia Today) fairly points out that this kind of commodification would be much better tolerated if its incomes would be used to invest on research or in operations that could contain the contagion. But at the end of the day, we still have one question: who did really purchased a 190€ Fendi face-mask?