Play.com closes direct-to-consumer retail business

Play.com closes direct-to-consumer retail business

Play.com has closed its direct-to-consumer retail business, choosing to concentrate on its marketplace offer instead.

The Jersey-based retailer, which also has offices in Bristol and Cambridge, has made 147 staff redundant in Jersey and 67 redundant in the UK.

The retailer has blamed its demise on the ending of Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR), which permitted items costing less than £15 to be sold to the UK VAT-free. The LVCR was closed by the government in April 2012.

In a statement Play.com said: "Moving forward we are intending to focus exclusively on our successful marketplace, which is our main business area, and to phase out the direct retail part of our business."

Its marketplace allows third parties to sell directly to customers.

Play.com was bought by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, which also owns e-reading company Kobo, for £25m in September 2011. At that time it had 14m registered users in the UK.

Retail analyst Nick Bubb said: “It was very much on the cards when Rakuten bought [Play.com], they were always planning to expand the marketplace side of the business. It is amazing because a few years ago Play was considered a big player and a lot of people thought HMV should have bought it. I know the company is blaming the ending of the Low Value Consignment Relief but competition from Amazon and supermarkets selling competitively would not have helped.”

In November, Play.com told The Bookseller: “We are driving quality catalogue expansion to enable us to offer our customers a greater breadth of books. In addition, we are working more closely with our Rakuten Marketplace Merchants to drive their sales of books through our platform.”

Along with buyer Louise Bagley, Play's books manager Caroline Mileham recently featured on the BBC’s "Young Apprentice" show representing the bookselling business.