Business

US COVID toilet paper hoarders have had an unintended impact: Japan’s toilet sales boom

Luxury toilets complete with heated seats and cleaning faucets are so popular in Japan, they’re almost synonymous with the country’s culture. They’re now growing in the United States — thanks in no small part to the pandemic-induced shortage of toilet paper.

Japan’s largest toilet manufacturer Toto Ltd., which introduced the Washlet in 1980 as a high-tech version of its bidet, said sales of the device more than doubled in the first quarter of 2020 from a year earlier, and up 18% in the first quarter of 2022 year-over-year. . Shinya Tamura, the company’s chief executive officer, said in an interview the prospects for further growth are bright, even though the “toilet paper panic” has passed.

“Although Washlet sales in the US have increased significantly, they are still far behind the penetration rate in Japan,” said Tamura, managing director of Toto’s home appliance business in North America and Europe. Copy. “I still see great room for growth in the US.”

Toto initially introduced the electronic Washlet for the hospital’s hemorrhoid patients. Follow Japan Sanitary Ware Industry AssociationMore than 80% of Japanese households now have such a toilet, and such devices are now common in hotels, restaurants, department stores and even public restrooms.

Their appeal is also growing internationally. The company reported overseas sales for the first quarter of 39 billion yen ($278 million) across its product lines, up 8% year-on-year. Mainland China accounted for 43% of sales, followed by the US with 32%.

Toto started exporting Washlets to the US in the 1980s and spent decades familiarizing US consumers with the product and growing its network. Nariko Yamashita, who worked in the US marketing team during the pandemic, said: “The explosive sales growth during the pandemic is ‘a situation where the seeds sown over the last decades’ also blooms”.

In 2017, Amazon introduced the Washlet in its Thanksgiving gift chart, which Tamura said “paved the way for a sales boom during the pandemic.”

The product “takes off the shelves” in the US in 2020 when “kitchen wipes, tissues and toilet paper completely disappear from supermarkets,” Tamura said, adding that the comment on social media Association about the benefits of bidets has helped drive demand.

In addition to the US, Tamura sees potential in Taiwan, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. However, sales in China are “quite sluggish” amid the ongoing Covid-19 shutdowns and government efforts to lower property prices. “But this just means that the market size has grown large enough to be sensitive and vulnerable to the economy,” he said.

Yoshihiro Nakagawa, an analyst at Mizuho, ​​said the Washlet boom in North America is likely to continue as long as the company can successfully build a strong brand image against similar products at cheaper prices. .

– With the support of Yasutaka Tamura and Kanoko Matsuyama

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