Rakuten, Ebay Team Up to Test US Market for Used Japanese Fashion Goods

REUTERS/Miho Uranaka
The logo of Rakuten is pictured in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan, Aug 2, 2023.

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Rakuten Group is partnering with eBay to test U.S. demand for used Japanese fashion goods, made all the cheaper with the yen trading near a 34-year low.

The tie-up, which started on May 8 with just seven vendors on Rakuten’s second-hand goods unit Rakuma, aims to capitalize on the currency effect and also a move toward bargain hunting as cost-of-living pressures around the world crimp spending.

eBay lists Rakuma’s selected goods through its site and handles shipping and customer service in the U.S. in exchange for commissions on sales.

The trial is starting with used fashion and accessories, which have cachet overseas due to Japanese users’ reputation for treating their luxury goods gently, said Rakuma general manager Kenichiro Hasegawa.

“Because of the use of cases and covers and such, these second-hand goods are in quite good shape,” Hasegawa said. “To say something is ‘used in Japan’ gives some immediate value.”

The tie-up comes amid an investment and tourism boom in Japan, partly fueled by the yen’s slide that has made the country’s goods relatively cheap. Second-hand stores, notably in Tokyo’s electronics district of Akihabara, have been swarmed by overseas customers looking to snap up vintage games and toys.

Rakuten did not provide a sales target for the venture with eBay. Hasegawa said there has not been any feedback from the seven vendors yet, but if the trial goes well the goal would be to link up all Rakuma shops and users with eBay.

Used and refurbished items make up about 40% of eBay’s gross merchandise volume. Global sales of “thrifted” clothing, shoes, and accessories increased more than five-fold in March 2024 from the year before, the company said.

After the U.S., eBay’s next biggest markets are Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany, and its “ultimate goal” would be to expand Rakuma offerings to those countries, said Naoki Kitamura, eBay Japan’s head of category management.