Rakuten has launched a new UK website selling physical and audiobooks via third party retailers.
The new site, Rakuten.co.uk, will replace the existing Play.com site, which shuts down in March 2015.
The Japanese e-commerce company said it plans to “focus on empowering more independent retailers to sell online in the UK.” However Steve Potter, commercial manager of Wordery, which sells via Play.com, said the company had concerns that the Rakuten brand was little known in this country.
Rakuten, which also owns e-book retailer Kobo, said that from December, “customers will also be able to access digital services offered by Rakuten businesses including Kobo… through a single account.” It said: “The marketplace will initially offer products from some of the UK’s most exciting merchants before expanding to include international merchants in the future. The move comes as Rakuten seeks to accelerate the global expansion of its internet services ecosystem.”
Kenji Hirose, c.e.o of Rakuten Europe, added: “With the launch of Rakuten.co.uk we are making it easier for shoppers to discover what they want and empowering merchants to provide it. Over the next 12 months we will pioneer a new era of borderless retail and entertainment by integrating our e-commerce offering with our global ecosystem of Internet services, to make shopping more fun.”
Rakuten has also launched a loyalty scheme to go with the new website. Rakuten Super Points rewards customers with a minimum of 1 Super Point for every £1 they spend on Rakuten.co.uk.
Wordery's Steve Potter said: "Play.com has been a very successful sales channel for us, this being based largely on their popularity and being an established brand. We will continue to work with Rakuten as they have some significant global marketplaces but have concerns that, as a brand, they are little known in the UK."
Rakuten bought Play.com in September 2011 for £25m. At the time, the company said the move was part of a step towards “global borderless shopping in the future.”