• Kyodo, Staff Report

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Online retailer Amazon Japan K.K. said Wednesday it has raised its shipping rates by up to 50 percent due to rising logistic costs.

The company had charged ¥350 ($3.28) for orders under ¥2,000, but the fee was raised to ¥400 for products shipped to Honshu and Shikoku islands and ¥440 for shipments to Hokkaido, Kyushu, Okinawa and smaller islands.

Express services and deliveries on specified dates were raised by between 10 percent and 50 percent.

The rate hikes will affect products directly distributed by Amazon.

Amazon will continue to offer free shipping on orders of ¥2,000 and up, the company said.

Free shipping also remains unchanged for members of Amazon Prime, which requires an annual membership fee of ¥3,900, the firm said.

Amazon last raised shipping rates in the spring of 2016 when it stopped offering free deliveries for all its products.

The company said it made the decision after taking into account a shift in the business environment.

Japan’s door-to-door delivery industry is facing driver shortages from the rapid surge in the volume of online shopping.

Last year Yamato Transport Co., the nation’s leading door-to-door parcel delivery provider and Amazon partner, raised shipping fees for the first time in 27 years.

The goal of the move was to reduce the burden placed on drivers, promote the use of delivery lockers and secure funds to make information-related investments in order to streamline its operations.

Yamato is also promoting reforms in its work culture after finding employees had engaged in a significant amount of unpaid overtime.

Sagawa Express Co. has also raised its basic delivery fees.

The company says the hike is aimed at maintaining its services amid serious labor shortages and surging shipping demand.

Shipping firms are not the only industrial sector being increasingly affected by Japan’s aging population.

Some retailers and restaurant chains — sectors where the labor crunch is also acute — have started to shorten their business hours in response to staff shortages.

With the country’s low fertility rate, the population of people aged between 15 and 64 — the so-called productive age — is projected to shrink faster than the overall population over the long term.

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