March 24, 2014 2:00 pm JST

Older shoppers, lower-income families in Japan boosted online sales in 2013

TOKYO -- Japan's online household spending hit a new record high in 2013. Spending was particularly pronounced by middle-aged and senior consumers as well as lower-income families, a survey by Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has found.

     The average Japanese household spent 69,607 yen (about $680) online last year, up 14% from a year ago, according to the survey.

     The survey covered households with two or more members, and studied household purchases made online on dedicated shopping websites and the websites of major retailers.

     Such spending has steadily increased every year for the 11 years that the ministry began survey in 2002. The 2013 figure was 5.2 times higher than 2002's. The spread of smartphones has helped nurture this growth.

Bargain hunting

By age of the household head, the survey showed there has been a sharp rise in spending by middle-aged and senior respondents. Online spending by people rose 23% on the year by those in their 50s, 21% for those in their 60s and an 18% among those in their 70s. All three of these figures surpass the average for all age groups.

     By annual household income, the survey found a significant increase in online shopping among lower-income families. It saw a 44% spending rise in households with an annual income of 2 million yen to just under 3 million yen, and a 17% increase among households with an annual income of 3 million yen to just under 4 million yen.

     The same product is often sold on various major shopping sites, making it easier for consumers to compare prices, and this appears to have encouraged more online shopping among lower-income consumers, according to the survey results.

     In Japan, online shopping sales accounted for mere 2.8% of total retail sales in 2011. In the U.S. the figure was 4.7% and in the U.K. it was more than 10%, according to a survey by the Development Bank of Japan.