Materials manufacturers turn to camping goods amid pandemic

The Yomiuri Shimbun

With the growing popularity of camping, which can be enjoyed while maintaining social distance amid the pandemic, materials companies are promoting sales of such items as highly breathable clothing and insect-repelling goods.

Demand for such previously key items as fashion is sluggish due to the coronavirus crisis, and companies are hoping this will be a new growth area.

Minotech, a synthetic fabric developed by Teijin Ltd. in 2016 for water-repellent outdoor wear, was patterned after the rice leaves used in Japanese straw rainwear called mino. The fabric is soft to the touch and favored by novice campers because of the microscopic protrusions that cause water droplets to glide across its surface.

Inquiries about Minotech from apparel manufacturers have increased by 20-30% compared to before the coronavirus crisis.

According to a household survey by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, consumer spending on clothing and footwear per household of two or more people decreased by 16% in July from the same month in 2019. The apparel industry, which handles general clothing, has been buffeted by headwinds as people refrain from going out.

Materials companies were also affected — financial results for the fiscal year ending March 2021 were marked by deteriorating business performance, including lower sales and companies’ bottom line going into the red.

Hopes are therefore high for the camping market. Solo camping and excursions by women are gaining popularity due to the influence of manga and anime, including Yurucamp.

According to an estimate by the Japan Auto Camping Federation, the market for camping equipment in 2020 increased 16.3% from the previous year to a record high of ¥87.6 billion. There are believed to be more novice campers and therefore a greater number of people buying new goods.

Aware that more people are enjoying outdoor activities worldwide, Toray Industries, Inc. is increasing its production of waterproof and breathable materials used for shirts and jackets.

Chemical giants are also making efforts to combat insects, which are particularly unpleasant to people who are not used to outdoor activities. In 2018, Sumitomo Chemical Co. launched a set of chemical sprays that repel mosquitos, for use outdoors. This year’s sales volume has doubled from last year.

Also that year, Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. launched an insect repellent net for automobiles aimed at campervan users. Sales have been strong since the pandemic began.