Japan shoppers queue, crash website for Uniqlo’s washable masks

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese shoppers queued at Uniqlo stores and crashed its website on Friday as the clothing chain began selling face masks with breathable fabric used in the brand’s popular underwear, preparing for the coronavirus outbreak lasting through summer.

Scenes of people standing in the rain waiting for stores to open were seen throughout Japan and broadcast on Twitter, while the online store displayed an apology to those looking for the washable Airism masks, saying the website was inundated.

Airism has been one of Uniqlo’s most popular lines, known for allowing wearers to stay cool in heat and during exercise. The masks are sold in three-piece packs for 990 yen ($9.26) plus tax, and are available in three sizes.

Prospects of a prolonged crisis has encouraged Japanese consumers to buy and make reusable, washable versions even as disposable masks, initially in short supply, have become more easily available.

Shares in Fast Retailing (T:), which owns Uniqlo, rose around 1% in morning trade, compared with little change in the broader market.

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