DAISO

Popular Japanese 100-yen store Daiso now has an online shop

You can now shop for 30,000 products all day, every day – if you’re in Japan

Daiso is a great place to shop for, well, pretty much anything. Need kitchen or tableware? Daiso. Boxes, folders, and bins to keep your home organized? Daiso. Socks, mittens, and caps to keep you warm? Daiso. Seasonal decorations? You guessed it: Daiso.

If anything, the beloved 100 yen store chain might have too much cool stuff. Daiso’s product lineup is far too extensive for any one shop to stock all of it, so you might not be able to find the exact thing you’re looking for at your local branch. Thankfully, though, there’s now a Daiso that not only has tens of thousands of items, but is even open 24 hours a day, thanks to the opening of the Daiso online shop.

The store’s full version launched on October 13. Just like in the chain’s physical stores, it’s filled with treasures that cost just 100 yen each. There are roughly 30,000 to choose from, with the website allowing you to search for specific items by name or browse through various categories.

High-rollers in the prefectures of Saitama, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Hokkaido, Aomori, Fukushima, Miyagi, Akita, Iwate, and Yamagata can also order around 6,000 different items from Daiso’s 300-yen Threeppy sub-brand.

Items can be purchased individually, but you do need to put together a total bundle of at least 1,650 yen. Shipping is 770 yen for almost all of Japan, with the exceptions of Hokkaido (880 yen) and Okinawa (2,970 or 3,300 yen, depending on exact location). However, orders of 11,000 yen or over qualify for free shipping, so pooling your Daiso desires with those of a few friends into a single bundle should get you over that hurdle.

Shop DAISO here https://www.daisojapan.com/

Amazon reportedly copied products and manipulated search results to benefits its own brands in India

Amazon.com Inc has been repeatedly accused of knocking off products it sells on its website and of exploiting its vast trove of internal data to promote its own merchandise at the expense of other sellers. The company has denied the accusations.

The employees used internal data to copy products sold by other companies on the platform in India, said Reuters, citing “thousands of pages of internal Amazon documents.” They also reportedly rigged search results so the company’s private-brand products would appear among the first two or three product listings. Two executives at Amazon reviewed the India strategy, according to Reuters. 

Although Amazon says its search rankings do not give preference to its own offerings. Only reward measures like low prices, the company used techniques to give itself a leg up in results.

The measures included ones usually reserved for raising the profile of mostly new products. Like, “whose sales are so low that there are insufficient data for the company’s technology to rank them”. Banners above typical rankings too.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company believes the allegations are “factually incorrect and unsubstantiated. Adding that Amazon strictly prohibits the “use or sharing of non-public, seller-specific data for the benefit of any seller, including sellers of private brands.” The spokesperson also said Amazon displays search results based on relevance to a customer’s search query and doesn’t favor its own private brand products. 

Not the first time…

In 2020, Wall Street Journal reported Amazon allegedly used third-party’s data to create its own products to compete with top-selling items. Amazon had 111 private brands, offering 22,617 products as of early 2020, according to Dataweave. Half of Amazon’s private products were in clothing, footwear, and accessories. Amazon has repeatedly said it does not use internal data or amend search results in favor of its own items. Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reiterated that stance when he testified before Congress in July 2020. A month before Bezos testified, Amazon had established a Counterfeit Crime Unit to bring “counterfeiters attempting to list counterfeit products in its store to justice,” according to its statement. Amazon is under antitrust investigation in the U.S., Europe, and India for alleged anti-competitive practices. 

Private label marketing has a long history in retail. And many brands including Target, Costco, and Walmart, rely on in-house products for a sizeable portion of their revenues. Still, the documents show that Amazon has been able to leverage its power as the world’s largest e-commerce platform. 

 

 

Japanese firms look to paper products to reduce plastic waste

A number of Japanese firms have recently turned to paper as a more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic products, from water-resistant cardboard boxes to small hangers.

The move comes as the Japanese government looks to enforce a law to improve the country’s plastic recycling practices and cut down on waste from April next year.

This month, fishery firm Nippon Suisan Kaisha Ltd became the first company to use water-resistant cardboard products developed by Nippon Paper Industries Co, replacing its standard Styrofoam containers to transport fresh fish packed with ice.

The newly manufactured cardboard is coated with a chemical that repels water and moisture, and when made into a box, it can hold water for up to three weeks, Nippon Paper Industries said.

By switching to its new paper products from Styrofoam, the use of petroleum-derived raw materials can be cut by 96 percent, according to Nippon Paper, with the firm aiming to promote the use of paper in place of plastics to firms with “environmentally friendly outlooks.”

Although the cost of the cardboard boxes is higher than the Styrofoam products, the paper alternative is more compact and saves space during transportation, with an additional perk of being recyclable, Nippon Suisan Kaisha said.

Meanwhile, Oji F-Tex Co, a subsidiary of pulp and paper manufacturer Oji Holdings Corp, has developed transparent paper to help cut the use of plastic film.

Products wrapped in the new transparent packaging are visible to the consumer, and as 51 percent of the wrapping is made out of paper, it can be disposed of as burnable trash.

Daio Paper Corp also began selling stir sticks and miniature hangers made of paper in July. The products are made from layered pulp that has been thickened to increase durability.

Source: Japantoday.com

Facebook and Ray-Ban debut ‘smart’ shades

Facebook and iconic eyewear brand Ray-Ban on Thursday launched their new smart glasses, the latest effort in a tricky, niche market but which the social media giant sees as a step toward its future.

The “Ray-Ban Stories” shades can take pictures and video upon the wearer’s voice commands, and the frames can connect wirelessly to Facebook’s platform through an app.

“We took our Wayfarer (frames), born in 1952, and we reinvented the design squeezing in some cool technology,” said Fabio Borsoi, global research, and design director at the EssilorLuxottica group, Ray-Ban’s maker.

Facebook is wading into a market that has already seen 2013’s Google Glass, which sparked a privacy backlash over built-in cameras and prompted the tech titan to pivot its focus for the device away from the general public.

Messaging app Snapchat has also released its camera-equipped Spectacles, but they are pricey and have struggled to catch on broadly with tech lovers.

Notably, the Ray-Ban Stories glasses will not have augmented reality features — technology that can mesh online computing with visual cues such as mapping or face recognition.

Instead, the shades are an early step toward efforts to create futuristic eyewear that adds to real-world views with data or graphics from the internet, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has said previously.

The company had said in July it was combining specialists from across its hardware, gaming and virtual reality units to build an immersive digital world known as the “metaverse.”

Priced starting at $299, the Ray-Ban Stories will roll out in Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, Italy and the United States.

Cameras are built into the front of the frames, while the arms are designed to act as directional speakers for listening to calls or streamed audio.

A white light in the front of the frame goes on when the cameras are being used, which is intended as a privacy feature to alert people they could be filmed.

Users can take a picture or a video clip of up to 30 seconds by pressing a button at the temple or using a voice command, both of which can be cues that a camera is on.

“We need the user to feel completely in control of their capture experience,” said Facebook Reality Labs product manager Hind Hobeika.

“And, similarly, we need people around them to feel comfortable that these smart glasses exist and always be in the know when a capture is happening,” Hobeika added, referring to filming.

The glasses also have a physical switch for turning them off.

Users log into the glasses’ Facebook View app using their accounts at the social network.

Ray-Ban Stories frames sync wirelessly to a smartphone app designed specifically for handling images or video captured by the glasses.

Users can decide using the app whether they want to share pictures or videos they have just captured, such as posting to Facebook or attaching them to an email.

Only data needed to run the app is gathered, and no information is used for targeting ads, said Hobeika.

Cyclist Sugiura, 50, becomes Japan’s oldest gold medalist

Keiko Sugiura won the women’s C1-3 road cycling time trial at the Tokyo Paralympics on Tuesday, becoming Japan’s oldest-ever gold medalist at the age of 50.

Sugiura clocked 25 minutes, 55.76 seconds at Fuji International Speedway to triumph and rewrite the age record previously held by Takio Ushikubo, who was 46 when he won judo’s 71-kilogram division at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

She also became the first female Japanese cyclist to win gold at the Paralympics and the fourth overall.

Anna Beck of Sweden won silver in 26:18.03, and Paige Greco of Australia bronze in 26:37.54.

Sugiura has paralysis on the right side of her body and memory impairment suffered after a fall in a cycling race when she was 45 years old.

The Shizuoka Prefecture native continued cycling as part of her rehabilitation won road time trial gold at the 2017 world championships and won silver both in the road time trial and road race at the 2019 world championships.

Sugiura will bid for her second Paralympic gold in the road race on Friday.

In other events, visually impaired athlete Shinya Wada of Japan won the Paralympic silver medal Tuesday in the men’s T11 1,500 meters at the National Stadium.

The 44-year-old Wada, who bagged the bronze medal in the men’s T11 5,000-meter event earlier in the games, won 1,500m silver in 4 minutes, 5.27 seconds. Yeltsin Jacques of Brazil won gold in a world record time of 3:57.60.

The Osaka Prefecture native was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa while he was in high school and lost his vision completely when he was a university student.

Japan’s Kenya Karasawa, who won silver in the men’s T11 5,000-meter event in his Paralympic debut in Tokyo, crossed fourth.

Nissin Foods says 50 billion Cup Noodles have been sold worldwide

Nissin said it has sold over 50 billion cups of Cup Noodles globally since its launch in 1967.

Due to the company’s aggressive promotion, the brand became a prominent seller in the industry.

Nissin’s sales surpassed the 40 billion mark in 2016 and reached 50 billion in May this year.

According to the company, Cup Noodles was created on Sept 18, 1971, and has grown to become a leading instant noodle product.

It has also penetrated the younger generations through advertising that is targeted to them. This has helped it achieve record sales in Japan for four straight years.

export import

Japan’s imports, exports grow on the overseas economic rebound

Japan’s exports in July jumped 37% from a year ago, the government said Wednesday, highlighting an overseas recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Imports also grew, rising 28.5%, according to Finance Ministry data, for the second straight month of a trade surplus for the world’s third-largest economy.

Japan’s exports grew to the U.S., Asia, and Europe; while imports increased from Brazil, Belgium, and Kuwait. By category, exports grew in food, iron and steel products, and electronic parts. Imports rose in food, auto parts, and oil. Japan marked a trade surplus with the U.S., but a deficit with China in July.

The strong trade numbers come even as Japan is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases that are causing some hospitals to turn away patients.

The government state of emergency” was extended Tuesday through Sept 12. It had previously been set to end this month.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also expanded the regions under emergency and a less strict quasi-emergency to about two-thirds of the nation. He promised hospital systems will be reorganized to increase wards to care for COVID-19 patients.

Japan has been trying to balance curbing infections while keeping the economy going. Japan’s economy grew at an annual rate of 1.3% in the April-June quarter.

The emergency is centered around having restaurants and bars close early and not serve alcohol and asking department stores and shopping malls to limit crowd size. Some government advisers have suggested stricter measures may be needed.

Japan has had more than 15,000 COVID-19-related deaths. But worries are growing about the new more contagious delta variant. After the Tokyo Olympics were held without fans, the Paralympics open later this month with similar anti-virus measures in place.

Although the vaccine rollout started slowly, about 40% of the population now is fully vaccinated.

Amazon Sellers Event: E-commerce Post Covid

ASGTG 2021: E-Commerce POST COVID  #ASGTG21

Presented by: Ed Rosenberg

For: Private Label and Resellers on Amazon

Location: Kol Yaakov Hall in Brooklyn, NY

Date: Wednesday, Aug 25, 2021

This all-day event connects Amazon’s top sellers with Amazon experts, speakers and others who strive to succeed in the marketplace.  Includes lavish gourmet Brunch and dinner. To communicate with attendees at event join Events ASGTG Telegram group.

The annual ASGTG event/meetup has become the yearly highlight for sellers throughout the world and is likely the most spoken about Amazon Sellers event of the year – truly a standout among the rest. It’s no wonder it was voted one of the top Amazon Sellers events to attend. 

ASGTG listed on “20 Amazon Seller Conferences for 2020″ by BUYBOX EXPERTS

ASGTG Listed on “Best Amazon Conferences You Can’t Miss in 2020” by Urtasker

ASGTG Listed on Feedback Whiz’s “22 Best Amazon Conferences in 2020

ASGTG listed on “The 2020 Amazon Seller Events Calendar” by Seller Engine

ASGTG listed on “30 best Amazon FBA Conferences to Attend this Year” by projectfba.com

ASGTG started as a simple idea and quickly exploded into a group sourcing for all Amazon selling issues. It includes many top 500 Amazon sellers. This idea has proven to be even more powerful than we ever thought possible. The annual ASGTG winter event 2020 sold out. Sellers flew in from all over the world including Israel, Florida, California and from multiple countries in Europe. The packed hall and sold out event demonstrated the high demand for additional events with high quality attendees and presentations.

New competition will always come along and eat up the profits. Sellers who fail to take the time to innovate and network can easily fall behind. The ASGTG EVENTS always provide sellers with the opportunity, knowledge and connections to have a competitive advantage in the constantly and fast changing world of eCommerce.

Attendees will have access to a full day of content in the main room, including seminars, keynote speakers and discussions by leaders in the E-commerce field. A second room will provide an all-day lavish gourmet catered buffet lunch and dinner, sponsorship booths, as well as more valuable networking opportunities.

Attendee Feedback on previous ASGTG events:

“Thank you for having me. The best amazon event I’ve ever been to, by far. “ Juozas Kaziukėnas.

“This is why I go to ASGTG -9 hours with some of the smartest people in e-commerce. Definitely the best single-day conference I know of.” Abe Chamoli

“Every speech has amazing content. The networking is unparalleled. We’ve been going for four years, and every year we walk away with new connections worth thousands in financial savings.” Gavriel N.

“I came in from Israel for the show and am so glad I did. ” Jan 2020 event attendee

“This is THE place for all your up-to-date Amazon news, information and questions. Highly recommended to anyone selling online from the newbie to the long-time seller.” Barrry Lampart

“This show is known in the industry as one of the top shows for Amazon sellers.The passion and ideas that come out of the event are energizing.” Jeff Cohen, Seller Labs

“Was the best amazon event I have ever been by. It was informative and had real content and the food was off the charts.” Usher P.

Olympics

Tokyo Summer Olympics 2021: Day 6 Winners and Losers

Sunisa Lee joined an impressive club on Day 6 of the Tokyo Games, becoming the fifth straight U.S. gymnast to win the individual final at the Olympics.

As she earned gold with teammate Simone Biles supporting from the stands, Lee headlined a superb day for Team USA. Caeleb Dressel and Bobby Finke—who attended the same college—swam to a gold, and two beach volleyball teams added another win.

Additionally, international stars Novak Djokovic and Luka Doncic continued their impressive runs in tennis and basketball, respectively. And a long drought ended for Ireland, too.

Here’s a recap of the biggest results from Day 6 in Tokyo. As always, it’s a mix of good and bad, featuring a heavy dose of Team USA.

Winner: Team USA in Beach Volleyball (x2)

As far as dreams of advancing out of pool play and into the knockout portion of the beach volleyball tournaments are concerned, Day 6 was a massive positive for Team USA.

On the women’s side, Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil were facing Kenya’s Gaudencia Makokha and Brackcides Khadambi in the second of their three pool-play matches. The Americans had already won their opener in dramatic fashion, but they have a very difficult matchup remaining against Brazil’s Ana Patricia and Rebecca. A win against Kenya would just about clinch a spot in the Round of 16, but a loss to Kenya would leave them in a very vulnerable position.

No need to worry about that latter scenario, though, because Claes and Sponcil blew out Kenya 21-8, 21-6. Considering overall point margin is the first tiebreaker for determining who advances and in what seed, it was a big win in more ways than one.

On the men’s side, Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser entered their final match of pool play with one win, one loss and no clue whether they would finish at the top or the bottom of their pool. A lopsided loss to Argentina’s Julian Azaad and Nicolas Capogrosso would have surely meant elimination, while a blowout win could have assured them no worse than second place in the pool and a ticket to the next round.

They landed somewhere in between with a close, three-set victory over the Argentinians.

Neither side led by more than three points in the opening set, which the Americans won 21-19. In the second set, Argentina gradually opened up an 18-12 lead before Team USA almost came all the way back. Though they failed to win that second set (18-21), Lucena and Dalhausser were able to carry that momentum into the final set for a 15-6 win.

Tiebreakers sent Lucena and Dalhausser to third in Pool D, but they should advance directly to the Round of 16 with a 2-1 record.

Loser: The 3 Swimmers Who Were Ahead of Bobby Finke After 750 Meters

The first men’s 800-meter freestyle final in Olympic history was an instant classic.

Down in Lane No. 8, Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri jumped out to a big lead within the first 100 meters and held onto that lead until the final 75 or so meters. That’s when Germany’s Florian Wellbrock overtook the Italian for first place.

With 50 meters to go, it appeared to be a three-man race with Wellbrock 0.11 seconds ahead of Paltrinieri and 0.33 seconds ahead of Romania’s Mykhailo Romanchuk. The man in fourth place was Team USA’s Bobby Finke, but at 1.52 seconds behind the leader, he was an afterthought.

Until he wasn’t.

From the second length through the thirteenth length, Finke swam at a metronome-like pace, going 50 meters between 29.1 and 29.36 seconds 12 consecutive times.

In the fourteenth length, he trimmed that down to 28.75 seconds.

In the next-to-last length, he swam a slightly faster 28.59 seconds.

But he must have saved a Mario Kart mushroom for the final 50 meters, because he swam that final length in 26.39 seconds, zooming past the Romanian, German and Italian as if they weren’t even moving. Just an absurd closing stretch for the gold medal after swimming nearly half a mile.

Winner: Florida Gators Swim Team

Day 5 was an exciting day of swimming for the University of Virginia with teammates Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass taking silver and bronze, respectively, in the women’s 200-meter individual medley. And the Cavaliers celebrated another medal on Day 6 with Paige Madden swimming the second leg of the silver-medal winning women’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay. 

However, Day 6 in the pool was even more exciting for the University of Florida.

That’s where Bobby Finke will return to college with his gold medal in the men’s 800-meter freestyle, and it’s where Caeleb Dressel went before setting the Olympic record in the men’s 100-meter freestyle.

For Dressel, it was his second gold medal in Tokyo and the fourth of his Olympic career, and it was a nail-biter.

He led the entire race and appeared to be in a relatively commanding lead with 25 meters to go, but Australia’s Kyle Chalmers closed the gap in a hurry. Had it been a 100.5-meter race, the Aussie probably would have won. But Dressel got his hand to the wall 0.06 seconds ahead of Chalmers and set a new Olympic record of 47.02 seconds.

Shortly after getting out of the pool, Dressel joined Michele Tafoya to watch the replay of his wife and parents watching his race before getting to do a video chat with them.

I don’t know about your house, but it got dusty in here in a hurry. This whole “no fans because of COVID-19 restrictions” situation is a colossal bummer to put it lightly, but that was a heart-melting moment.

Loser: Ireland’s Gold-Medal Drought in Rowing

Ireland has sent at least 25 athletes to each Summer Olympics since 1960, but gold has mostly eluded the Emerald Isle over the years.

Prior to Tokyo, the Irish had won just five gold medals in the past six decades, three of which were won by swimmer Michelle Smith at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. And up until a silver medal five years ago in Rio, Ireland had never won an Olympic medal of any type in rowing.

But in the men’s lightweight double sculls, Ireland’s Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy narrowly edged out Germany’s Jason Osborne and Jonathan Rommelmann for the gold. The Germans jumped out to a fairly significant lead in the first 500 meters, but O’Donovan and McCarthy gradually caught up and pulled ahead over the final 1,500.

For what it’s worth, the subsequent women’s lightweight double sculls final was much more dramatic. Ireland won the men’s event by 0.86 seconds, but there was only a 0.50-second gap between first-place Italy and fourth-place Great Britain on the women’s side, as well as a 0.01-second gap separating Great Britain from Netherlands’ bronze medal.

And before we move on from rowing, let’s also be sure to mention Croatian brothers Martin and Valent Sinkovic. Their gold medal in men’s pair in Rio was Croatia’s first ever in rowing, and they repeated as gold medalists on Day 6. It’s the first time since Team USA’s Paul Costello and John B. Kelly Sr. took gold in both 1920 and 1924 that teammates repeated as Olympic champions in this event.

Winner: Sepp Straka, Austrian Golfer

It will be three more days until any Olympic medals are awarded for golf. However, the first round of the men’s tournament took place on Day 6, and the early leader is a little-known golfer from Austria.

Per CBS Sports, 36 of the 60 golfers in the field had gold-medal odds of 125-1 or better.

But if you bet on the guy who shot eight under par in the first round, you’ve got to be loving your 150-1 odds on Sepp Straka right about now.

Though he has been part of the PGA Tour for a couple of years now, Straka has only played in two majors in his career, placing 28th in the 2019 U.S. Open and 66th in the 2020 PGA Championship. In other words, if you’re the type of golf fan who only watches Saturdays and Sundays of the majors, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Straka before now.

However, after a bogey-free opening round in which he had eight birdies in the span of 15 holes, Straka could be well on his way to becoming a household name.

That’s only if he can avoid what happened to the first-round leaders in Rio, though.

In the men’s tournament in 2016, Australia’s Marcus Fraser also shot a rather stunning eight under in the first round before shooting par the rest of the way for a fifth-place finish. And in the women’s tournament, Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn led after Day 1 (six under) before withdrawing with a knee injury on Day 3.

Considering 2016 was the first year with golf at the Olympics in more than a century, that’s the extent of the history we can reference on the matter. But what a story it would be if Straka is able to ride his hot start to a medal.

Loser: Attempts to Eliminate Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic is on the brink of two medals in Tokyo.

To begin Thursday, Djokovic breezed through his quarterfinal in men’s singles. The world No. 1 dispatched Japan’s Kei Nishikori—the bronze medalist at the 2016 Rio Games—6-2, 6-0.

“He was defending amazing today—everything deep—and I was trying to stay with him but I couldn’t,” Nishikori said, per Andrew Dampf of the Associated Press. “I thought I was playing OK, but my serving was bad today and he was attacking every (time).”

Djokovic’s semifinal foe will be fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany.

But the Serbian superstar wasn’t finished. After a short break, Djokovic returned to the court with Nina Stojanovic for the mixed doubles quarterfinals. They quickly beat Germany’s Laura Siegemund and Kevin Krawietz 6-1, 6-2.

Next up for Djokovic/Stojanovic will be Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev of the Russian Olympic Committee.

Regardless of the results, Djokovic is guaranteed a medal match in the competitions. But if he wins both—alongside Stojanovic in one—Djokovic will have a chance at a double gold in Tokyo.

Winner: Sunisa Lee’s Moment in the Spotlight

Sunisa Lee headed to Tokyo with medal expectations in the women’s all-around final. And when U.S. star Simone Biles withdrew from the competition because of mental health concerns, Lee had a clear path to an individual gold medal.

The 18-year-old from Minnesota is now a legend.

Lee posted a 57.433 to edge Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade (57.298) and Russian Olympic Committee duo Angelina Melnikova (57.199) and Vladislava Urazova (56.966) for gold.

During the final rotation, Andrade stepped out of bounds twice in her floor routine. The errors assured Lee of the highest spot on the podium. Andrade took home silver, becoming the first-ever Brazilian woman to medal in gymnastics. Melnikova ended with the bronze.

Lee became the fifth consecutive U.S. woman to win the all-around competition, joining Carly Patterson (2004), Nastia Liukin (2008), Gabby Douglas (2012) and Biles (2016).

Jade Carey, who replaced Biles for the United States, finished with a 54.199 score in eighth place.

Loser: Slowing the Luka Doncic, Slovenia Hype Train

Three days earlier, Luka Doncic set the record for most points (48) in an Olympic debut. If you’re a glass-half-full person, the good news for Japan is he only scored 25!

But in a 35-point drubbing of the host nation, the Dallas Mavericks guard put together a strong outing. Doncic shot 8-of-15 for his 25 points, adding seven rebounds, seven assists, two blocks and two steals in Slovenia’s comfortable 116-81 win.

Through two rounds, Doncic is the leading scorer in the competition. It’s possible, even likely, he’ll remain atop that leaderboard.

Doncic shouldn’t have all the attention, though.

“It’s not only Luka,” said Japan’s Rui Hachimura, who plays for the Washington Wizards and had 34 points in defeat. “They have a lot of guys who can hoop. … They’re a great team. They beat us.”

Zoran Dragic scored 24 points, and three others hit double figures. Seven players had multiple assists, and Slovenia outrebounded Japan 54-33. Mike Tobey, the ACC Sixth Man of the Year at Virginia in 2014-15, grabbed a game-high 11 boards.

If the rest of the roster keeps complementing Doncic at that level, Slovenia is every bit a gold-medal contender.

How COVID-19 is altering consumer behavior in Japan

Like millions of other Tokyoites enduring month after month of “soft lockdown,” Megumi Takesawa has been stocking up on non-perishables such as canned tuna, tomatoes, and corned beef as well as boil-in-the-bag curry. She also stores a wider selection of alcohol in her pantry now, from bottles of wine and sake to cases of beer, as dining out and gathering with colleagues after work for drinks have become a rarity.

Meanwhile, the 39-year-old office worker says she’s spending less on tickets for live concerts, movies, and theater performances, and has substantially cut down on vacation expenses, as long-distance travel is frowned upon. She also tries to buy books from local bookstores so the smaller shops won’t go out of business, and, in order to stay fit while working remotely, she’s taken up jogging.

Some hygiene practices that have become commonplace over the past year to curb the risk of contagion will likely stick, Takesawa says.

“I think I’ll be carrying around disinfectant sprays and wet wipes regularly even after the pandemic,” she says.

COVID-19 is upending Japanese shopping habits like never before. Stay-at-home requests, social distancing measures, and the surge in remote work have seen consumers reprioritizing what is essential.

Healthy dietary and lifestyle choices, as well as demand for home cooking and baking, have seen products such as protein powder and flour fly off the shelves while the ubiquitous use of face masks has hammered cosmetics sales. And with physical contact being largely avoided, more people are swapping supermarkets for online shops.

A Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo’s Nihombashi neighborhood is closed during the state of emergency in April 2020. | KYODO

For corporations buoyed or burdened by the phenomenon, the big question they are asking themselves is whether these trends are temporary or here to stay.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Toshimitsu Kiji, a data analyst at market research firm Intage Inc. The company collects weekly sales data from approximately 4,000 retail outlets nationwide, including supermarkets, convenience stores, and drug stores, to assess consumer trends.

According to figures it compiled for the whole of 2020, sales of face masks, disinfectants, and thermometers jumped by 380%, 296%, and 255% year on year, respectively. While that may be unsurprising considering the ongoing pandemic, more unexpected products also made its top-30 list of highest-selling goods last year.

At the sixth place on its list is “malt beverages,” which grew by 173%. Behind the spike was a social media-backed campaign purporting the health benefits of Milo, the malt-based chocolate drink produced by Nestle. Its sudden popularity saw the powdered product disappear from supermarkets, with opportunists selling them at a premium on resale sites.

“Snacks produced by toymakers” come in at No. 7, with sales climbing 154% compared to 2019. Kiji says the phenomenon was partially the result of people flocking to snacks that come with stickers and other toys that feature characters from “Demon Slayer,” the manga and anime series that was the basis for a film released last year became the biggest-ever box-office hit in Japanese history.

Protein powder follows in eighth place with a 141% surge.

“From around June last year, young women began buying soy protein powders in order to stay in shape during the pandemic,” Kiji explains. “Maintaining a healthy lifestyle while remote working has been a big topic affecting shopping trends.

“Others on the list include non-perishables such as frozen seafood as well as whipping cream and baking mix for home cooking purposes. With people spending more time at home, we saw sales of detergent, deodorants, and dehumidifiers grow,” he says. “And with restaurants facing closures and asked to curtail business hours during a state of emergencies, alcohol sales have been robust.”

Sales of face masks in Japan rose 380% in the 2020 year on year, according to figures compiled by market research firm Intage Inc. | REUTERS

Meanwhile, cosmetics took a hit in 2020, with lipstick faring the worst with sales down by more than half at 42% compared to the previous year. Sales of face blushes, foundations and makeup bases also plunged to 63%, 68%, and 72% year on year, respectively, with fewer opportunities to go out and people encouraged to work from home. Drugs for motion sickness fell out of demand as trips became less frequent, while better hygiene over virus fears put a damper on common cold medicine.

“Sales of chewing gum and candies — things often purchased by office workers to stay alert during the day — have also fallen,” Kiji says.

So which products are going to maintain their edge when the pandemic subsides?

“It essentially comes down to goods that consumers feel are useful,” Kiji says. “For example, recent data suggests hair treatment products are gaining popularity. If people feel they can take care of their hair by themselves rather than frequently visiting beauty salons, that could become a lasting trend. The same goes for bath additives. If consumers feel they’re effective in relaxing and rejuvenating, they will continue using them even when they can freely go out without the worry of contagion.”

A report on the impact COVID-19 is having on Japanese consumer behavior compiled by Nomura Research Institute (NRI) says stockpiling of non-perishables will likely decelerate as the pandemic subsides, but home cooking will still be popular and interest in healthy eating is expected to continue growing. Sales of large television sets and other home entertainment audio-visual systems are expected to remain strong, while the outdoor activities boom may see demand for SUVs rise.

The outbreak is understandably accelerating spending on online services as well — not only shopping for daily necessities, but also for games and video-on-demand streaming and rental services.

Hiroyuki Hayashi, a consultant at NRI and an expert on consumer trends, says the ratio of those surveyed by the think tank who are subscribers to Amazon Prime, for example, jumped by 6 percentage points from 16% to 22% in the two months from March to May last year.

“Prior to that, it took two years for the ratio of subscribers to grow 3 percentage points, so this was quite a surprise,” he says. “It shows how the first state of emergency issued last April turbocharged digitalization in Japan.”

Online shopping, banking, and free video-streaming services such as YouTube have all seen strong demand, Hayashi says, although there’s a catch.

“Online shopping activity remains strong amid the pandemic, but the number of money users spends per transaction has decreased,” he says. “Whereas people used to buy in bulk when shopping online, they are now buying more frequently in smaller quantities.”

Surveys conducted by NRI in December 2018 and December 2020 showed that the number of times respondents said they shopped online annually grew from 33.8 to 37.4. In terms of the amount spent per transaction, however, the figure dropped to ¥2,136 from ¥2,484.

“When analyzing the number of transactions and payment amounts, we notice purchasing activity is most robust among youths,” Hayashi says. “Those in their teens, for example, spend roughly ¥600 on average per transaction, while those in their 20s typically spend around ¥1,000.”

China leads the pack with one of the most sophisticated digital ecosystems in the world. According to Mckinsey & Company’s China consumer report 2021, the nation has more than 850 million internet users, with mobile payment penetration triple that of the United States. It also boasts the world’s largest e-commerce market, accounting for about 45% of global retail e-commerce transaction value in 2018.

The report says around 55% of Chinese consumers are likely to continue buying more groceries online after the peak of the crisis. The consulting giant said that, according to its mobile survey, 74% of Chinese citizens increased their online grocery visit frequency during the pandemic, and 15% said they will increase visits after its peak has passed.

Japan, in the meantime, has been a slow starter when it comes to digital payments. Cash remains king, and contactless transactions including credit cards and smartphone apps account for only 20% of personal spending, according to 2016 data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. That’s compared to over 95% in South Korea and nearly 70% in the United Kingdom.

Hayashi of NRI says surveys show that even during the pandemic, the Japanese have been relatively hesitant compared to other developed nations in using services such as online learning, telemedicine, and smart speakers. But when users were asked whether they plan on utilizing these services after the pandemic, a large portion was optimistic.

“Digitalization will be here to stay,” he says. “Japanese tend to be reluctant to spend money on new services, but once they do and realize the benefits they can enjoy, they tend to become loyal customers.

“Internet shopping will also take a stronghold, especially when movement has been restricted for so long,” he says.

“There’s no comparable event in modern history that has impacted consumer behavior at this scale,” Hayashi adds, expressing concern that a growing digital divide and financial hardships endured by many during the crisis could exacerbate economic inequality.

“I fear the economic fallout from the pandemic will widen the wealth gap.”

The outbreak is already taking a severe toll. According to the health ministry, as of early April, more than 100,000 people have been dismissed or seen their employment contracts terminated without renewal.

Under the circumstances, job insecurity is likely to remain high especially among workers in the manufacturing, retail, and restaurant industries that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. That, in turn, is impacting consumer behavior.

In order to understand how the pandemic is changing consumer psychology, online market researcher Macromill Inc. launched its own consumer segment — the With COVID-19 Segment — in December. It features six segments based on analyzing the company’s 1.3 million consumer panel.

These include average consumers (33%) who are adapting to the new lifestyle yet feeling stressed and inconvenienced, as well as those who are “home nesting” to avoid virus risks but are struggling with their social lives (14%) and feeling financially pinched (14%). The latter two segments are mostly women in their 40s and below.

Then there are the digital natives in higher income brackets who have quickly adapted to the “new normal” (15%) and those who have taken the pandemic in stride (11%) without letting the crisis get in the way of their personal lives and hobbies. The latter segment is led by men in their 40s to 60s.

Finally, there’s the segment composed mainly of men in their 30s and younger who are feeling inconvenienced by virus-induced restrictions but nevertheless continue to go out and meet with like-minded people (13%).

Tomoyuki Shibuya, a senior consultant at Macromill, says half of the six segments representing roughly a third of all consumers surveyed are enduring a lower quality of life amid the outbreak compared to the rest that is typified by older men and high-income white-collar types.

“Those feeling financially strained are most often members of small to midsize businesses that are facing the wrath of the pandemic,” he says. “This divide will likely remain after the crisis. Japan has long been described as a middle-class society, but that may no longer be the case.”

Source: Japan Times