Update: A Rakuten spokesperson has confirmed that Play.com will soon disappear: “Rakuten will cease using the Play.com brand from early 2015, from which point visitors to the website will be forwarded automatically to the new Rakuten.co.uk marketplace.”
The site is similar to eBay and Amazon Marketplace, giving independent retailers a platform to sell their physical goods. Rakuten is starting with retailers inside the UK, but plans to expand the site’s scope and support international merchants in the future. Furthermore, the company said customers would eventually be able to buy products “from Rakuten marketplaces worldwide.”
In short, it’s the same model that Rakuten has perfected in Japan.
In 2013, Rakuten announced that it would stop selling DVDs, CDs and other goods from its existing e-commerce site play.com in the UK. The company focused on its marketplace offering exclusively, similar to how its new rakuten.co.uk site operates. Notably, play.com is still accessible in the UK, although the site now appears to be almost identical to rakuten.co.uk. It’s unclear whether the former will be closed, or ran in parallel.
Taking a page from Amazon’s playbook, Rakuten confirmed it would also be launching a unified account system for Wuaki.tv and Kobo, its ebook reader lineup and ebook marketplace, in December.