`According to The Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese company is flushed with success, responding to U.S. consumers' fears of runs on toilet paper amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Toto Ltd.'s hi-tech Washlet toilets come with a bidet function that washes the user's rear end with warm water.
Washlet sales in the United States, where demand has typically been low, more than doubled year-on-year between January and June this year.
“Even in the U.S., people panic-bought toilet paper in March, resulting in a shortage of it. Since then, more people have become interested in the Washlet,” said Katsuhito Nojima, vice president of Toto U.S.A. Holdings Inc., who said the toilets have recently sold well there.
Few in the United States are familiar with toilets like the Washlet that include the bidet feature. Many American homes also don't have electrical outlets in their restrooms, making it difficult to install a Washlet there.
But U.S. interest soared in Washlets after toilet paper disappeared from store shelves during the pandemic.
Despite the hurdle of stay-home polices in place to prevent the virus from spreading, Toto in the United States is still seeing a rise in orders.
“People are using their homes as offices due to the pandemic, and their lifestyles are changing,” Nojima said. “We'd like to meet the demand from people who want more comfortable toilets.”
This year marks the 40th anniversary since Toto, the world’s leading toilet manufacturer, debuted the Washlet, which led the way for consumers to become accustomed to washing their behinds while they used the toilet, utilizing its warm-water shower function.
The Washlet has been popular among households and offices in Japan since hitting the market in 1980. At present, 80 percent of general households use toilets that have a warm-water bidet function.
Numerous luxury hotels outside Japan now have Washlets as well. High-grade Washlets have been a hit with wealthy customers in China, where knock-offs of the toilets are also available.
Last year, shipments of Washlets worldwide topped 50 million units.
Toto officials are hoping visiting foreigners in Japan for the Tokyo Olympics next year will be favorably impressed by Washlets, leading to a further sales bump abroad.
Annual shipments of Washlets abroad were 580,000 units in fiscal 2018, but the toilet maker plans to ship 2 million units in fiscal 2022.
“Technologies for hygiene, cleanness and avoiding contact will play decisive roles during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Toto President Noriaki Kiyota.
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