Business

Air conditioner, soft drink sales surge in record hot summer but department stores suffer

JIJI

Shipments of air conditioners and nonalcoholic beverages hit all-time highs in July while swimming pools were crowded with people looking to cool off amid the scorching summer heat.

But department stores saw fewer customers during the heat wave amid warnings from the Meteorological Agency that going outdoors could be “life-threatening.”

On July 23, the mercury set a national record of 41.1 degrees in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture.

Air conditioner shipments climbed 10.9 percent on year to a record high of 1,763,000 units in July, the Japan Electrical Manufacturers’ Association said.

“Models with advanced functions such as energy-saving sold better than in normal years,” an official at major electronics retailer Bic Camera Inc. said.

Shipments of nonalcoholic beverages rose more than 5 percent to a record 225 million cases, led by strong demand for tea and other soft drinks, according to an industry research company.

Oral rehydration solutions, or drinks rich in ingredients to counter dehydration, also sold well, with shipments of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Factory Inc.’s popular OS-1 drink surging as much as 60 percent.

Swimming pools drew visitors at night as well.

Toshimaen, an amusement park in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, that has a large pool, saw attendance grow about 1.5 times from June 30 to Monday compared with a year ago.

The Japan Department Stores Association said same-store sales dropped 6.1 percent on year in July as fewer elderly, who account for a large chunk of their clientele, went shopping, an association official said.

Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea meanwhile did not see major drops in attendance. As of Aug. 14, however, the Tokyo Disney Resort theme parks had canceled 23 performances, including parades and stage productions, due to the hot weather.

The heat also affected farmers’ crops.

“While sales of some products fared well, impacts from the heat, including rising vegetable prices, emerged earlier than in an average year,” said Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

Vegetable prices stayed high in early August.

The average retail price for cabbage, for example, was 53 percent higher than normal over the three-day period that ended on Aug. 15, the agriculture ministry said.

According to data covering 470 supermarkets nationwide, cucumbers were 42 percent higher and tomatoes 27 percent higher.

The heat “is unlikely to lift the economy considerably, given the impact of torrential rains and earthquakes,” Nagahama said.