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Extreme heat brings business bonanza as people look to cool down

Air conditioners are on display at Bic Camera's Yurakucho store in Chiyoda Ward in Tokyo on July 23, next to an advertising sign reading "Don't get beaten by the extreme heat." (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- As the deadly heat wave continues to cause suffering across Japan, sales have sharply risen for products that offer relief from the high temperatures, such as beer, soft drinks and air conditioners, while the number of visitors looking to cool off at leisure facilities has surged.

Domestic household spending is expected to climb this summer, and companies are making major efforts to increase production in quick response to the demand caused by the heat, which is expected to continue for the time being.

The Kirin Group, anticipating a surge in demand, plans to boost production of its "Kirin Ichiban" beer by 10 to 40 percent compared to last year. Sales of the firm's "Salty Lychee," a salt supplementing soft drink, have also risen around 20 percent in July compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, Suntory Beverage & Food Limited is raising production of its teas and sports drinks by 15 percent through July and August compared to a normal year, to prepare for the increase in demand.

Electronics retail stores have also seen a boost in business. Sales of air conditioners have increased at Bic Camera by 60 to 70 percent compared to the same period the previous year. The company's machines to make shaved ice are also a popular item. "Sales are accelerating even when compared with the recent three-day weekend," commented a representative of Bic Camera. Meanwhile, K's Holdings Corp. has sold 60 to 80 percent more air conditioners and electric fans in a one-week period ending July 22 compared to the same period in the previous year. Despite the business growth, these companies are struggling to have the air conditioners promptly installed.

Laundry and personal hygiene products are also benefiting from the heat. Pharmaceutical giant Lion Corp has seen a 10 to 20 percent rise in the sales of items such as liquid detergent and fabric softeners from last year. Antiperspirants are also selling well, according to the company.

Meanwhile, leisure facilities that offer guests the chance to cool off are crowded. Visitor numbers between July 1 and 22 to Toshimaen Co.'s theme park with an outdoor pool in Toshima Ward in Tokyo soared by around 20 percent compared to the previous year, reaching about 65,000 people. An official at the entertainment facility said the operator is paying close attention to the risk of heatstroke for those outdoors and is urging visitors to rehydrate themselves. The "Tokyo Joypolis" entertainment facility in the capital's Minato Ward, which is well air conditioned, experienced a 2 to 3 percent rise in visitors compared to the previous year. Commenting on the boost to business, an official at the complex said, "In this heat, which is expected to continue, we anticipate a rise in guest numbers as they look to stay cool."

Hot weather is said to often lead to a surge in personal spending. According to estimates by the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, if the temperature rises by one degree from July to September compared to an average year, domestic household consumption spending will increase by around 288.4 billion yen (2.61 billion U.S. dollars) during that period. However, Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at the institute, pointed out that, "Vegetable prices are expected to rise due to poor harvests caused by the scorching heat, which could lead to a decline in spending in autumn."

(Japanese original by Hironori Takechi and Shiho Fujibuchi, Business News Department)

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