Rakuten, Japan's largest online retailer, is acquiring a U.S. logistics firm as it continues to build out its infrastructure to compete with foreign rivals like Amazon.com.
The company said Thursday it will acquire Webgistix, which provides warehouse and shipping services to online retailers. Webgistix says it can provide 1-2 day shipping for customers from its U.S. facilities in New York, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Reno.
The acquisition fits with Rakuten's larger strategy of operating a giant online shopping mall for merchants, as opposed to selling directly to customers. Earlier this year, Rakuten converted U.S. site Buy.com, which it acquired in 2010, over to its model. Buy.com now redirects to rakuten.com, and it has become one of thousands of online retailers on Rakuten.
Webgistix will help Rakuten offer its online retailers, many too small to have their own infrastructure, the ability to ship quickly to customers. Webgistix has marketed itself as a way for smaller retailers to compete with Amazon without selling their products through the site.
"Webgistix believes that its suite of solutions provides retailers with an equivalent of Amazon Prime service while maintaining their independence and brand experience," the company said earlier this year in a news release.
Retailers ship their goods to Webgistix ahead of time, then integrate their e-commerce systems so purchases are shipped quickly after payment. Webgistix was formed in 2001 and is based in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The companies did not disclose a selling price.
Rakuten made a similar purchase last year in Europe, when it bought French logistics firm Alpha Direct Service, or ADS. The company, now a Rakuten subsidiary, operates two large shipping centers near Paris.
A household name in Japan, Rakuten counts about 60 percent of the population as members, and is aggressively expanding abroad. Along with Buy.com in the U.S., Rakuten has acquired Ikeda in Brazil, Tradoria in Germany, and Play.com in the U.K. in recent years.
The Japanese firm openly refers to Amazon.com as its main competition. Although the company mainly stays away from selling products directly to customers, it is rapidly expanding its Kobo e-reader business at home to compete with Amazon's Kindle.