Japan's fussy food shoppers finally go online amid pandemic
Japan Today -- Jul 01
The coronavirus has forced Japan's notoriously fussy food shoppers to abandon doubts about online grocery stores, sending retailers such as Aeon Co scrambling to meet a surge in delivery demand.

Although Japanese shoppers aren't alone in going online during the outbreak, the shift is remarkable for a country that had been expected to take years to embrace online food shopping because of a zeal for fresh and perfectly presented produce.

"I think that this pandemic has triggered an inflection point in the adoption of grocery e-commerce," said Luke Jensen, executive director of Ocado Group, hired to build a grocery e-commerce business for Japanese retail giant Aeon.

Most companies won't disclose numbers, but retail executives and analysts estimate internet sales now account for about 5% or more of Japan's total grocery sales, compared with 2.5% before the pandemic.

Although that is still lower than some pre-crisis estimates of 15% in China and even 7% in broadband laggard Britain, it challenges a long-held belief that Japanese shoppers will always on shopping daily and in person, checking the goods first-hand.

Yuri Ohtaka, a graphic designer living in Tokyo's western suburbs, began ordering from multiple online supermarkets in March after seeing shoppers emptying shelves at a nearby store.

Although fears of shortages have subsided, online deliveries have made it easier as she works from home, making three meals a day for her family, including her 3-year-old son. She's also happy to avoid stores amid fears of infections.

"There's no need for face-to-face, dealing with registers, or standing in line," she said, adding that she's also persuaded her parents to go online. "They were shopping every day in the supermarket, and I really didn't want them to."

As more households have two people working, analysts say, people want to spend less time shopping. But they still have exacting standards for service and produce quality, which have perplexed previous foreign entrants such as Carrefour and Tesco.

Such changes are closely watched as Japan is one of the world's most valuable grocery markets, worth over 50 trillion yen ($466.42 billion) a year. Per capita, only countries such as Switzerland, Norway and Israel spend more on food.

News source: Japan Today
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