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Elderly in Japan making more online purchases after virus outbreak: credit card data

Customers wearing face masks are seen lining up in front of a cash register at a supermarket on April 7, 2020. (Mainichi/Minoru Kanazawa)

TOKYO -- There has been a spike in the number of online purchases made by elderly people in Japan while offline transactions in physical stores are on the decline following the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to research conducted by a major credit card company.

As the elderly have a higher risk of developing severe symptoms if they contract the virus, the coronavirus pandemic may lead to advances in a shift to digital forms of shopping for this group of people.

Sumitomo Mitsui Card Co. examined the transaction data of a total of about 10 million customers' cards. Between April 1 and 14, the number of transactions through e-commerce sites and other forms of online shopping made by customers in their 70s had increased by 9.5% compared to the same period of the previous year. The amount of payments during this period had barely changed from the same timeframe a year earlier, which suggests a trend in making more frequent purchases of low-priced products.

On the other hand, the number of offline transactions at supermarkets had dropped by 3.4% from the same period of the previous year, while transactions at convenience stores and electronic retail stores had also decreased. The amount of payments made at supermarkets had increased by 6.5%, suggesting an overall tendency of bulk buying, while reducing the number of visits to stores.

The number of online transaction cases for customers in their 20s saw a large increase, while supermarket transactions also rose for this generation as well.

A PR representative for the card company said, "The consumer behavior of the elderly, who until now apparently weren't used to online shopping so much, may change greatly prompted by the novel coronavirus."

(Japanese original by Atsuo Yamaguchi, Business News Department)

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