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Face mask craze crashes Japan's online stores

Site outages stymie product launches by Sharp, Mizuno and Uniqlo

Many customers had trouble purchasing masks through Uniqlo's website, stymied by an apparent order overload. (Photo by Kento Awashima)

TOKYO -- Japan's immense consumer appetite for masks amid the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted or taken down e-commerce sites run by major companies, raising questions about how to balance customer satisfaction with costs.

Sharp, Mizuno and Fast Retailing brand Uniqlo were all overwhelmed with traffic during much-awaited product launches. Customers assumed that these businesses were ready for the extra traffic. That sites ended up crashing anyway illustrates the difficulty of predicting the magnitude of such surges.

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