Time for 'air con,' yukata and beer: Summer sales battle heats up in Japan as rainy season ends

JIJI, Bloomberg

The summer sales battle is intensifying as the year’s rainy period officially ended Wednesday after bringing a record-breaking lack of sunshine.

The Meteorological Agency on Wednesday announced the end of the rainy season in the Tohoku region, declaring the end of the rainy period throughout the nation. Temperatures are forecast to be higher than usual for the rest of summer across the country excluding the Okinawa region.

Leisure facilities and the beer industry are pinning their hopes on making up for the dampened start to their summer sales due to unseasonable coolness in the first half of July.

Families and others on Monday flocked to pools at amusement park Toshimaen in Tokyo, which struggled to attract customers until mid-July, when the country was engulfed in long spells of rain.

The number of visitors “exceeded the year-before level over the three days from Friday,” a Toshimaen official said. “We want to see a further surge.”

Beer-makers, whose best season is the summer, have started to boost production.

Kirin Brewery Co. has decided to increase the production of its mainstay Ichiban Shibori cans by some 10 percent from a year before in July and August.

Suntory Beer Ltd. is set to boost its popular Kinmugi quasi-beer by some 20 percent. Sapporo Breweries Ltd. is planning an increase of about 10 percent for all its beer and beer-like products in August.

Until recently, a top executive of a major beer-maker expressed concern about the “tough situation compared with last year’s blistering heat.” Now, the industry is perking up.

Sales of air conditioners, which saw a robust start, were dampened by lower temperatures during the rainy period.

“We’re pinning hopes on the last spurt,” said an employee of Mitsubishi Electric Corp. Air conditioner-makers will focus on their popular high-performance products.

Department store chains kicked off their second round of bargain sales of summer items in late July.

Sogo & Seibu Co., a unit of Seven & I Holdings Co., saw sales of additionally discounted products rise 30 percent year on year in bargain sales at all 15 of its outlets nationwide from Wednesday.

An official at Matsuya Co.’s outlet in Tokyo’s posh Ginza district said the store has seen “signs of recovery in (sales of) summer products such as yukata casual summer kimonos and parasols.”

The rainy season ended in Tokyo and other areas in the Kanto-Koshin region on Monday, 30 days later than last year.

The unusually long and cool rainy season had dampened demand for apparel, furniture and other goods, with some retailers already reporting steep drops in merchandise sales.

Until Sunday, Tokyo had seen only about 44 sunshine hours in July, among the least since the Meteorological Agency began keeping records in 1890. There was also one less Sunday this year compared with July 2018, and rain and overcast skies also appeared to be keeping people at home, especially on weekends.

Shimamura Co., a chain of affordable clothing shops, reported last week that same-store sales through July 20 fell 18 percent from a year earlier. Many of Shimamura’s customers reach the company’s 1,433 locations in Japan via bicycle rather than car, so rainy days tend to have an outsized impact on revenue, a spokeswoman said.