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Companies

Sharp opts for lottery to sell masks after demand crashes website

Consumers rushed to buy company's limited supplies

Sharp produces the masks in Japan at a clean room faciliity.   © Reuters

OSAKA -- Sharp will use a lottery system to select buyers for its new face masks after overwhelming demand caused the electronics group's online shopping portal to crash.

The Osaka-based company attempted to begin online sales to consumers on Tuesday, setting a total daily limit of 3,000 boxes. But the volume of traffic to Sharp's website overwhelmed the servers that day, putting the sales on hold.

Japan has suffered a chronic mask shortage because of the coronavirus outbreak despite government efforts to increase production of the protective gear.

The high access count also affected Sharp's web service for connected appliances, which uses the same system. For that reason, "we will set aside one day to accept applications [for the lottery] to ease the access," a Sharp representative said Thursday.

For the first round, the company will take applications Monday through a separate website, then conduct a lottery Tuesday. Winners will be notified by email and granted access to the purchasing site.

Sharp offers the masks in boxes of 50.  (Photo courtesy of Sharp)

Sharp has made 30,000 boxes available, each containing 50 masks. Only one box will be sold to each customer, priced at 2,980 yen ($28).

The company started making masks last month, after Japan's government urged the private sector to ease the nationwide shortage amid the coronavirus pandemic. Sharp's masks are produced in clean rooms at a liquid crystal display plant in Mie Prefecture.

Sharp began deliveries at the end of March, but all of those supplies went to the government. The company plans to raise daily output to 500,000 masks, from 150,000.

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