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Low Growth Forces Rakuten to Close UK Marketplace

Rakuten is closing its marketplaces in the UK and Spain in a major restructuring move in Europe. The company said it would focus on France and Germany, where its businesses have the scale and potential for sustainable growth.

The announcement comes after news surfaced in February of planned closures in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Rakuten recently partnered with eBay in Korea.

Merchants discussing the closure on the Amazon UK boards said sales had slowed since Rakuten acquired UK marketplace Play.com in 2011 for 25 million pounds and closed it in favor of a new Rakuten UK marketplace. “No loss,” wrote one merchant of the announced closure on Tuesday.

A spokesperson told EcommerceBytes that in the UK and Spain, “the cost of growth relative to the size of the businesses has led to plans to close these operations.” The company is spinning the consolidation as part of a “more focused investment plan.”

Rakuten explained what was closing in the UK, Spain, and Austria:

  • Closure of Rakuten UK marketplace (www.rakuten.co.uk) and its Cambridge operations, as well as Rakuten Spain marketplace (www.rakuten.es) and its Barcelona operations.
  • Provision of services to Austrian merchants and customers from the German operations base (www.rakuten.de), due to closure of the dedicated marketplace and operations in Vienna, Austria (www.rakuten.at)

The affected marketplaces are expected to close by the end of August, and the company wrote in its announcement, “timely information and support will be provided to merchants and customers to ensure that all transactions on current sites can be fully completed.”

When asked how the closures would impact online merchants who sell on the platform, the spokesperson said merchants and customers can continue to reach out to Rakuten with any questions or requests for support.

“Merchant fees will be waived as of June 1 but the platform will be maintained to allow completion of transactions,” she said.

She added, “Rakuten Group will continue to evolve the ecommerce business model in countries across Europe, including initiatives such as the launch of a new Price Club to enhance membership loyalty in France and Rakuten Pro in Germany, a low-commission model for merchants aimed at enhancing service quality.

“Rakuten will also continue to grow its presence in Europe across its diverse business portfolio, from ecommerce to digital content businesses such as Wuaki and Kobo, to the Viber messaging platform and the adtech business Rakuten Marketing. With the focus on ecommerce marketplaces in France and Germany, we will also work to increase the diversity of merchants trading on these platforms.”

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.