Amazon Japan mulling virtual shopping mall

The Japan unit of Inc. said on Wednesday it was considering launching a virtual shopping mall on its website to attract more shoppers by offering a wider variety of products.

An earlier newspaper report on the planned move hurt its competitors and shares in Rakuten Inc., operator of Japan's biggest web-based shopping mall, dropped as much as 7 percent, while Yahoo Japan Corp. nearly 9 percent in morning trade.

The Yomiuri daily said Amazon Japan, which currently sells books, home electronics and other products directly to consumers via its website, planned to launch a virtual shopping mall later this year, allowing retailers to sell their products such as clothes and food on its site.

An Amazon Japan spokeswoman said no details had been decided, including timing. The company's president Jasper Cheung is scheduled to hold a briefing on a new business on August 3, but she said this will not be about a virtual mall.

Its U.S. parent has been operating a virtual shopping mall since November 2002 and about 30 percent of products sold on's website are now sold through it, the spokeswoman said.

Amazon Japan has been in business since November 2000, and generated about 10 percent of the U.S. firm's group sales in 2005.

The U.S. parent has faced slowing sales growth due to intense competition, while increased spending on technology and content has crimped profits. on Tuesday reported a 58 percent drop in quarterly net income and cut its earnings outlook for the year because of stepped-up investment in its toy business and lower prices on many products.

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