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Stay-home bonanza: Bic Camera doubles delivery capacity

Japanese electronics chain sees surge in orders from the housebound

A Bic Camera store in Tokyo's Ikebukuro has a section devoted to gadgets necessary for teleworking.

TOKYO -- Japanese electronics retailer Bic Camera will double its ability to process online orders as consumers turn to internet shopping while they stay at home to avoid the new coronavirus. 

Last month, the Tokyo-based company expanded floor space to process online orders by 70% at a key warehouse in Chiba Prefecture. The company will be able to ship twice as many packages as a result.

Bic Camera has been bolstering its online capabilities in recent years to supplement its 200-plus retail locations across Japan. It offers store pickup through an app and launched a joint online shopping platform with Rakuten in 2018.

The retailer aims for 200 billion yen ($1.86 billion) in online revenue for the fiscal year ending August 2022 -- twice that for the year ended August 2019 and roughly 20% of groupwide sales.

Other retailers are also expanding online operations, often in cooperation with internet companies, but surging delivery demand is taxing shipping companies in turn.

Supermarket operator Life expanded a grocery delivery service, offered in partnership with Amazon Japan, to 12 wards in Tokyo from seven.

Seiyu has set up a second logistics hub for its joint grocery delivery service with Rakuten, aiming to make it operational by the end of the year. The new facility, located in Yokohama, will allow the service to handle more orders and deliver to a greater area.

Logistics chains are struggling to keep up with surging demand.

Lohaco, an online shopping platform operated by Askul, halted new orders for 48 hours starting March 4, unable to handle the flood of orders for food and daily necessities. It has since hired more workers at its warehouses, but shipments that would normally be delivered the next day are still taking three to five days.

Such leading logistics providers as Sagawa Express and Japan Post have had to close certain outposts since March after driving and other staffers tested positive for COVID-19, leading to delays. They could suffer even more disruptions as the outbreak grows.

The logistics sector was already shorthanded even before the outbreak. Online retailers may be forced to impose restrictions on orders so as to keep logistics chains from collapsing.

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