Sharp Corp. said Thursday it will switch its online sale of face masks from a first-come, first-served basis to a lottery after a surge in access to its e-commerce website amid the new coronavirus crisis.

After launching sales of the face masks Tuesday, the household appliance maker received far more hits than expected and had to suspend the website, with no one actually being able to purchase the item.

[Courtesy of Sharp Corp.]

Its internet of things services involving remote control of household appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators were also disrupted because it used the same system as the e-commerce website.

Under the new lottery system, the Osaka-based manufacturer said it will first take orders for the face masks from midnight Sunday to 11:59 p.m. Monday on its website. It will hold a lottery the following day and notify the winners through email by Wednesday.

For the first round of the lottery, Sharp has prepared 30,000 boxes of face masks, each containing 50 masks. They will be sold at 3,278 yen ($30) a box with 660 yen charged for shipping. Purchases will be restricted to one box at a time.

The timing of orders during the application period has no effect on the odds of winning. Orders will be nullified if Sharp judges that the same person is trying to purchase multiple boxes.

Due to the shortage of face masks in Japan, the government has decided to offer subsidies to companies which have invested in facilities to start or ramp up production of masks.

Among the recipients, Sharp launched mask production in the dust-free clean rooms at its plant in Mie Prefecture in March and has already shipped them to the government.

Panasonic Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and other major companies outside the medical sector are also joining the effort to boost face mask production as the pneumonia-causing coronavirus continues to spread in Japan.

Under the original sales plan, Sharp expected to sell 3,000 boxes a day on a first-come, first-served basis starting from Tuesday 10 a.m., with further purchases not allowed until three days after the initial one.