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Domestic shipments of household electric appliances in 2020 rose to their highest level since 1996, driven by strong demand for air purifiers during the novel coronavirus pandemic, an industry body said Monday.

The shipments were worth ¥2.5 trillion ($24.4 billion), up 1.0% from the previous year, with more people teleworking and many spending much of a ¥100,000 cash handout from the government on home appliances, according to the Japan Electrical Manufacturers’ Association.

The figure marked a year-on-year increase for the fifth year in a row.

By product, shipments of air purifiers jumped 56.8% to hit a record high of ¥88.8 billion, while kitchen appliances such as toasters and hot plates saw double-digit growth with more people staying at home, the association said.

Air conditioner shipments fell 0.7% by value to ¥805.9 billion but their sales volume gained 0.6% to a record 9.87 million units. The shipment volume increased even though stores temporarily closed or shortened their business hours during the first state of emergency declared over the virus in April and May last year.

Shipments of refrigerators sagged 2.0% to ¥443.1 billion, and those of washing machines dipped 0.1% to ¥382.5 billion. The shipment volume of both items fell for the first time in five years.

The outlook for overall home appliance shipments is “uncertain because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” an association official said.

In December alone, domestic shipments of household appliances rose 13.6% from a year earlier to ¥249.6 billion, up for the third straight month.

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