Online flea market operator Mercari Inc. said Thursday that it would try its hand at brick and mortar operations in hope of reaching tens of millions of untapped users in the Japanese market, allowing them to sell their used goods on the spot and handling everything from photography to shipment.

The physical store is one of the company’s new programs aimed at attracting new users of its signature internet service by lowering the hurdles for adoption. The moves are expected to increase use of its online secondhand market for both novices and busy workers.

According to a Mercari survey, there are 36.1 million “potential users” who are willing to sell items on its app but haven’t yet taken a shot at it. “These customers feel the hurdle of using our service. Some of them don’t know how to wrap the items,” said Mercari Japan CEO Hirohisa Tamonoki.

The physical store, set to be named Mercari Station, will allow people to take pictures of their merchandise in a booth so they can post ads online, and will wrap and send the goods for customers who place them in a “Mercari Post” mailbox. Staffers will also be on hand to teach customers how to use the Mercari app.

The first store will open this spring in the Marui department store in Shinjuku before more pop up in shopping malls and other commercial facilities in 10 major cities by summer 2021, Tokyo-based Mercari said.

Mercari also introduced other efforts to increase its offline presence, including setting up around 5,000 Mercari Post mailboxes nationwide, besides the one at the Mercari Station, by 2023. The mailbox features a QR code reader and a shipping label printer. Users can use the QR code shown on the app to print out a label. They then put the parcel with the label attached into the mailbox.

Yamato Transport Co. will partner with Mercari to pick up and deliver the packages, while Mercari will also team up with NTT Docomo Inc. to set up the mailboxes at Docomo stores.

Since the app’s launch in July 2013, it has attracted 15.38 million monthly active users in Japan and developed a trading value in excess of ¥490 billion annually.

The online secondhand market “still holds growth potential,” Mercari CEO and founder Shintaro Yamada said at Mercari Conference 2020 at the Toranomon Hills complex in Tokyo, where it explained its business vision and strategy.

In the past year Japan produced used items valued at an estimated ¥7.6 trillion, excluding automobiles and other vehicles, according to data released by the economy ministry in April 2018.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.