Rakuten Is Scaling down in US, Terminating Many Sellers in the Marketplace

In an unexpected turn of events Rakuten, formerly Buy.com, sellers received an email saying that their seller privileges are to be terminated because Rakuten is “focusing our efforts on a very limited assortment of products and merchants in the near term”.

Dear Marketplace Seller,

To better serve our customers we have made a tough decision to scale back and focus our efforts on a very limited assortment of products and merchants in the near term. Due to this decision, we will unfortunately no longer be able to feature or sell your listings on Rakuten.com

Per Rakuten.com Marketplace Sellers Agreement (Section 16.4) we would like to give you a 30 days’ notice effective today to terminate the mutual Marketplace Seller’s Account.

  • You are able to conduct business as usual until 3/31/17; at which time your account will be deactivated and you will no longer be able to accept new orders.
  • If you do not plan to continue selling and/or fulfilling orders, please zero out inventory and notify us at merchants-marketplace.rakuten. for immediate deactivation.
  • Final payments will be held for 60 days after 3/31/17, regardless of actual deactivation date, plus the time permitted for customer returns of seller product in accordance with your return policy to allow for the investigation of any customer claims and for the settlement of all amounts owed to Rakuten.com.

Rakuten.com is an e-commerce marketplace based in Aliso Viejo, California. Previously known as Buy.com, it was founded in 1997 by Scott Blum. In 2010, it was purchased by Japanese company Rakuten for $250 million in cash, and rebranded as Rakuten.com in 2013. At the time Buy.com had 14 million customers, mostly located in the US and Europe. Half its products were sold directly to customers and half were sold through other e-commerce businesses using its marketplace.

Rakuten cut 73 jobs as it moved from Aliso Viejo for Silicon Valley earlier this year.

Rakuten is the largest e-commerce website in Japan with $26 billion in sales in 2016 on its Rakuten Ichiba platform. Rakuten Japan operations have been growing consistently, but their international expansion has hit roadblocks. Last year Rakuten closed its marketplaces in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia in February, then Rakuten shut down their operations in UK and Spain in June. Rakuten was also planning to launch in India by the end of 2016, but has since put the plans on hold as India market slowed down in growth, and the Flipkart, Amazon India, and Snapdeal three-way duel is a tough market to enter.

Most US multi-channel sellers have been experimenting with Amazon, eBay and lately Jet.com and Walmart, leaving Rakuten out of eyesight. So in September last year Rakuten started a new process allowing international sellers to sell on Rakuten.com, helped by financial services provider Payoneer. But based on Alexa.com research, Rakuten.com web traffic has been on a decline for a while.

We have received multiple reports of this and are updating the story as we learn more about.

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Juozas Kaziukėnas

Founder of Marketplace Pulse, Juozas wears multiple hats in the management of Marketplace Pulse, including writing most of the articles. Based in New York City. Advisor to other startups and entrepreneurs. Occasional speaker at conferences.

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