"In the UK and Spain, the cost of growth relative to the size of the businesses has led to plans to close these operations" said Rakuten this week.
Rakuten acquired Play.com in 2011 for $40 million, and turned it into Rakuten.co.uk in months following. Despite global presence in Japan and the US, Rakuten.co.uk struggled to match Amazon UK and eBay UK.
This is sad news, but can be explained by Rakuten not having the resources neccesary to manage that many marketplaces. After closing UK and Spain websites Rakuten will instead focus on Germany and France ecommerce. They report those as having clear potential to grow.
Sellers were informed about this change by email
We regret to inform you that following a strategic review of its operations in Europe, Rakuten has decided to consider plans to close Rakuten.co.uk to shoppers from the end of August 2016.
This is part of a European business review aimed at ensuring that Rakuten is able to redevelop our offer to match customer and merchant expectations in an ever-changing market.
Rakuten has started to talk with employees around the closure of both the operation and the Cambridge office, subject to these discussions, we anticipate that the marketplace will no longer accept new purchases after the end of August 2016. Rakuten will keep the merchant backend (RMS) open until the end of the year in order to allow for refunds and chargebacks and to search for past orders.