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Gloomy weather a mixed bag for consumption

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Dehumidifier sales have been strong at Biccamera’s store near the west exit of Shinjuku Station in Tokyo due to a long spell of rainy weather.

The Yomiuri Shimbun A record-breaking lack of sunshine is causing changes in domestic spending habits that are hurting sales of beer, air conditioners and other summer items but bringing cheer to dehumidifier makers and indoor leisure facility operators.

With the consumption tax rate set to increased to 10 percent in October, some analysts are warning the lingering overcast weather could also have a gloomy impact on the domestic economy.

At major appliance retailer Biccamera Inc.’s store near the west exit of Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, the section set aside for seasonal appliances would normally be displaying products such as electric fans at this time of year. However, this year, dehumidifiers and futon bedding driers still line the shelves. The store has delayed switching over to summer products because of the bad weather. “Many customers tell us they want to dry their laundary,” a store official said.

At FamilyMart Co.’s convenience stores, sales of ice confectioneries during the second week of July were down about 40 percent from the same period last year, but sales of hot bottled drinks had doubled and those of Chinese steamed buns were up about 50 percent. Sales of summer clothing and other items have been sluggish at department stores. However, the Takashimaya Co. department store chain reported sales of rain gear had jumped about 50 percent in the first half of July.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the Tokyo metropolitan area received less than three hours of sunshine per day for 20 consecutive days from June 27 through Tuesday, marking the longest such streak on record.

The dreary weather appears to be making more people easily get headaches. Daiichi Sankyo Healthcare Co. reportedly logged growth of about 10 percent in over-the-counter sales for some of its headache medicines in July, compared with last year.

According to beer industry sources, the sales volume of beers in June apparently dipped about 5 percent from the previous year. The weather is forecast to improve in August, so major drink maker Kirin Holdings Co. is sticking to a planned production increase. “Everything depends on the period after the rainy season ends,” a Kirin Holdings public relations official said.

The weather also has produced mixed results for leisure facilities. While swimming pools and other outdoor facilities have seen fewer customers than usual, the Orbi Yokohama indoor entertainment facility, which is operated by Sega Holdings Co., said its visitor numbers in July were nearly 20 percent higher than last year.

The overcast weather is also pushing up vegetable prices. According to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, the average price of cucumber and eggplants at the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market were, as of Tuesday, about 50 percent higher than in a normal year. The rising prices of fresh vegetables, which people purchase frequently, could make consumers more inclined to tighten their purse strings.

If the gray skies continue into the school summer holidays, there are concerns spending on travel, outdoor meals and other sectors could be negatively affected. In the summer of 2017, when poor weather blighted eastern Japan in particular, private consumption, which accounts for a majority of gross domestic product, for the July-September period dropped for the first time in three quarters.

Some market watchers predict private consumption, which slipped in the January-March period of 2019, will rebound in the July-September quarter as consumers push up demand with last-minute purchases before the consumption tax hike.

However, Toshihiro Nagahama, executive chief economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Inc., warned, “If the cool summer weather drags on, the economic pickup could possibly be less than expected.”

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