TOKYO -- Consumers in Japan and elsewhere who are stuck at home watching Netflix during the coronavirus pandemic have snapped up large-screen televisions, fueling a broad sales recovery.
Economic stimulus measures implemented by governments, such as 100,000 yen ($930) cash payouts in Japan, are also driving the trend.
"I have a TV I bought 10 years ago, and I think it's time to replace it," said a customer at electronics retailer Bic Camera in the Japanese capital. "I spend more time at home now, so I've decided to go with a [high-definition] 4K TV."
Domestic shipments of flat-screen TVs rose 6% on the year in April after falling in February and March, according to the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association.
Shipments in May jumped 17% -- a rare double-digit increase -- to over 363,000 units. The gain was even more pronounced among larger models of 50 inches or more, which surged over 60%.
The growth continued accelerating in June, with weekly sales up 30% to 50% on the year, research company BCN said.
"We could see combined sales from 2020 and 2021 top 10 million units," said Panasonic, which usually ships about 4.5 million TVs in Japan annually. Sharp logged a roughly 20% boost in sales on the year in May and June, while Mitsubishi Electric is also enjoying an increase compared with 2019.
Demand for TVs is rising internationally as well. Shipments in North America climbed 7% in April and 16% in May, according to Display Supply Chain Consultants in the U.S. and Beijing DiScien Consulting, a sharp turnaround from the continent's 10% drop in the January-March quarter.
Sales of more compact 32-inch to 43-inch models also are increasing as consumers set up personal TVs in their rooms.
"There's demand for TVs that can double as a computer monitor with more people working from home," a representative at Sony said.
TV shipments in China increased 5% in May after months of decline. Though demand plunged by 28% in South America due to the growing coronavirus outbreak there, global sales dropped just 1% thanks to the boost in major economies and continued to recover in June.
"There is also a push to create a home environment that is better suited to entertainment," LG Electronics Japan said. More consumers now watch Netflix and other streaming services on TVs instead of computers or phones, lifting demand.
Netflix subscribers rose by 23% globally in the year through March to over 182 million, with the company adding almost 15.8 million in the January-March quarter alone.
TV demand is expected to stay strong for some time, especially given concerns of a second wave of the coronavirus. But the market has uncertainties, such as the rising price for liquid crystal displays used in the TVs. The price for LCD panels increased 3% to 6% in June.
"If we continue to see a global increase in demand, we could end up with a shortage of panels," said Eiji Mori of BCN.
The current boom also might sap sales during the holiday shopping season toward the end of the year, ultimately producing little increase over the full year.