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Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Crowdless Olympics: Pizza Hut and apparel sponsors strike gold

Watching from home, Japan fans order in and snap up Tokyo Games gear

Olympic merchandise sells at a Mizuno store in Tokyo. (Photo by Manami Yamada)

TOKYO -- With spectators barred from much of the Olympics over coronavirus concerns, takeout businesses and suppliers of official gear are enjoying a windfall as fans of Team Japan root from home.

The strong start by Japanese Olympians, who have won 10 golds through Tuesday among 18 medals, has spurred sales of related goods.

Royal Host reports that during the four-day weekend ended Sunday, daily sales of takeout and deliveries were 30% above the average for Sundays in July. Meanwhile, in-store dining declined 10%. The family restaurant chain is under Royal Holdings.

At the Yoshinoya beef bowl chain, takeout orders accounted for more than half of all sales during the four-day weekend -- up 5 percentage points from the average for earlier weekends this month. Expecting takeout demand to increase, the Yoshinoya Holdings unit had rolled out discounts for customers buying more than one bowl.

Pizza Hut Japan is also enjoying a boost from the Olympics. Daily sales during the four-day weekend exceeded a typical weekend's levels by 30%.

"Sales are higher than the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, when many events were held in the early morning," a spokesperson said.

A promotion offering a special pizza with two free drinks apparently helped attract hungry viewers as well.

The restaurant industry has been hamstrung by COVID-19 restrictions as Japan continues to struggle with new cases. The market shrank 15% in 2020, according to the Japan Food Service Association -- the sharpest reduction on record.

The Summer Games present "an opportunity to make up for a portion of the sales lost to the pandemic," a restaurant executive said.

A Pizza Hut outside of central Tokyo: Sales of delivery pizza jumped over the recent four-day weekend. (Photo by Yoshikazu Onuma)

Team Japan's strong start is helping to raise interest in Olympics gear, which had drawn little attention. Asics, the official apparel and footwear sponsor for the Japanese team, saw customer traffic at directly run stores in Tokyo nearly double during the four-day weekend from a week earlier, with T-shirts flying off the shelves.

"We're feeling the powerful impact of being a host country," a spokesperson said. "Sales are growing more than expected, and there's no comparison with the Rio Games."

Olympic T-shirt sales at Mizuno's flagship store in Tokyo have quintupled.

The day that Tokyo native Yuto Horigome won the gold medal in the Olympics' first-ever skateboarding event, skateboarding-related sales jumped 30% from a week earlier, according to retailer Murasaki Sports. Footwear sales rose 20%, with shoppers flocking to Olympian-favored brand Nike.

An Olympics attended by domestic spectators would have generated 130 billion yen ($1.19 billion) in personal consumption, including spending on lodging, estimated senior economist Keiji Kanda at the Daiwa Institute of Research. Although the economic effects will be much smaller with the restrictions, fans will still spend 30 billion to 40 billion yen during the sporting event, he predicts.

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