• Economy

Used home appliances gaining popularity due to rising costs

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A Yamada Outlet Adachi Store employee wipes down a refrigerator in Adachi Ward, Tokyo.

More people are choosing to purchase used home appliances, such as refrigerators and washing machines, as a result of a growing money-saving sentiment amid the rising cost of living.

The increase in popularity also comes from a shortage of semiconductors and other factors causing the prices of some new home appliances to go up. However, some secondhand home appliances are expected to become more expensive as well due to a lack of inventory.

Used refrigerators, washing machines and other items are crammed into a small section at the Yamada Outlet Adachi Store in Adachi Ward, Tokyo.

Popular items at the store include washing machines with a capacity of 7-8 kilograms that cost about ¥20,000 and refrigerators with a capacity of 400 liters that cost about ¥35,000-¥50,000. These items cost less than half of that of new products.

“Young couples or company employees who are transferred to a new post without their families are among the customers who come to the shop,” the store’s manager said. “We offer a two-year warranty, so customers can make their purchases without fear.”

Yamada Denki Co., which entered the used appliance business in 2015, currently has such items in stock at 91 stores. The company bolstered its secondhand appliance business with the opening of a new “reuse center” in Gunma Prefecture in May that repairs and cleans used washing machines and refrigerators.

Hard Off Corporation Co., a company that buys and sells home appliances and other items, opened a Tokyo location in April 2021 that focuses on buying items from businesses as well as individuals.

“With the spread of flea market apps, young people, who didn’t use to buy secondhand goods, are now buying them,” said the firm’s senior managing director Tsuyoshi Nagahashi.

Sales increase

The market share for used goods increased by 2.5% to about ¥2.42 trillion in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to an estimate by the Reuse Business Journal. In particular, the growth of used furniture and home appliance sales stood out with a 9.5% increase to ¥237.1 billion.

Manufacturers have recently been struggling to produce home appliances due to the global shortage of semiconductors and the lockdown in Shanghai. The shortage of air conditioners and other new home appliances has also increased the demand for secondhand goods.

Treasure Factory Co., which buys and sells used goods, saw a 90% increase in sales of used air conditioners in June compared to the same month last year.

“The shortage of semiconductors and surging prices have caused the cost of new products to skyrocket, leading [more people to purchase] used home appliances,” an official of the firm said.

However, due to their growing popularity, even used washing machines and fans are hard to find this summer, raising the purchase prices for vendors.

A major company selling secondhand home appliances said that previously, used washing machines could have been purchased for about ¥2,000 and then sold for more than ¥10,000. But now, the purchase price has gone up to ¥5,000-¥7,000.

It is highly likely that the increase in price will be reflected in the selling price in the future.

“Consumers are becoming less brand-conscious and are happy if the appliance’s functions meet their needs,” said Kunitoshi Matsui of Matsui Office Co., an expert on the home appliance market.

He added that it is important for consumers to make sure they know who to contact in the event their appliances break or need repairs.