Business

Sharp adopts lottery system for face mask sales after massive demand crashes website

KYODO

Sharp Corp. said Thursday it will change how it sells its face masks online, from offering them on a first-come, first-served basis to using a lottery system, after attracting more potential buyers than its e-commerce website could handle amid the COVID-19 crisis.

After starting to accept online orders for the face masks Tuesday, the household-appliance maker received far more hits than expected and had to suspend operation of the website. No one was actually able to purchase the masks.

Sharp’s “internet of things” services that involve remote control of household appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators were also disrupted because they used the same system as the e-commerce website where the masks were sold.

Under the new lottery system, the Osaka-based manufacturer said it would first take orders for the face masks on its website from midnight Sunday to 11:59 p.m. Monday. It will then hold a lottery the following day and notify the winners through email by Wednesday.

For the first round of the lottery, Sharp has prepared 30,000 boxes of face masks, each containing 50 masks. They will be sold at ¥3,278 ($30) a box with a ¥660 fee for shipping. Purchases will be restricted to one box at a time.

The timing of orders during the application period has no effect on the odds of winning. Orders will be nullified if Sharp determines that the same person has tried to purchase multiple boxes.

Due to the shortage of face masks in Japan, the government has decided to offer subsidies to companies that have invested in facilities to start or ramp up production of masks.

Among the recipients, Sharp launched face mask production in the dust-free clean rooms at its plant in Mie Prefecture in March and has already shipped some to the government.

Panasonic Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and other major companies outside the medical sector are also joining efforts to boost mask production as the new coronavirus that causes pneumonia and COVID-19 continues to spread in the nation.

Under the original sales plan, Sharp had expected to sell 3,000 boxes a day on a first-come, first-served basis starting from Tuesday at 10 a.m., with subsequent orders not allowed to be made until three days after a customer’s most recent purchase.

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