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Insect repellent, hair products among unexpected big sellers in virus-hit Japan

Various bug repellent products are seen for sale in this image provided by Earth Corp.

TOKYO -- While there are many examples of products and services that have seen plummeting sales in Japan due to the new coronavirus pandemic, other goods saw demand rise thanks to increased time spent at home and remote working practices. Instant noodles, computers and video games are among the most notable beneficiaries, but there are other unlikely products that have seen the changing circumstances improve their fortunes.

    "With people avoiding going outside, bug repellent products aren't going to sell ..." So thought a business strategy manager at Earth Corp., one of Japan's major sellers of anti-insect products, when the coronavirus began spreading around the country in spring. But when they actually took a look at the results, it turned out their bug repellents and associated goods were selling some 20% better than the same period last year.

    The cause was the rise of teleworking, and the "three Cs" of confined spaces, crowded places and close contact. According to the company's analysis, there are reportedly a number of people who, when working at home in front of a computer with the windows or doors open to ventilate their space, are distracted by the faint sound of insects flying around.

    There were also reports of others who became aware of mites in their sofas or futons when they went to take a rest during break times. Among insect repellent products, those that deal with mites have seen particularly strong growth, with a rise of around 60% in their sales.

    In the same industry, Osaka-based Dainihon Jochugiku Co.'s Kincho brand bug repellent products have also seen robust sales. The company speculated that one of the reasons was that "people are spending more time at home, so trash is also going up, and perhaps our products are being bought to deal with the bugs that gather around that."

    With opportunities to go outside falling, cosmetics' sales have seen a reverse in fortunes. The June results of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications' household budget survey show that spending on lipstick has fallen by 51.5% compared with the same period in 2019. But perm solutions for use at home have seen good sales in the period. According to major cosmetics firm Dariya Corp., based in the central Japan city of Nagoya, their sales were down by about 10% over March and April compared to a year earlier, but then rallied to a rise on the year before of between 20% and 45% over May to June.

    Perm solutions are applied to one's hair to straighten it, make a wave, etc. The reason they're seeing brisk custom is that it appears many people are avoiding going to beauty salons, where they will come into close contact with others, and instead doing their hair care at home. A sales promotion official at Dariya said, "It seems like people have avoided going to salons for perms and hair straightening treatments, which take a long time to do."

    (Japanese original by Hajime Nakatsugawa, Business News Department)

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