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Softbank-led JVs Launch Toy, Book Shopping Sites

Just in time for the year-end shopping season, two Softbank-led joint ventures last week launched e-commerce sites to sell books and toys throughout Japan.

Both e-Shopping! Toys and e-Shopping! Books opened for online business. e-Shopping! Toys Corp. was established on August 12 as a joint venture of Softbank (52.5 percent), Yahoo Japan (10 percent), and six toy industry firms -- leading toy wholesaler/distributor Happinet (17.5 percent), toy gift-certificate issuer Toy Card (10 percent), and toy makers Bandai, Epoch, Takara, and Tomy (2.5 percent each).

The e-Shopping! Toys site currently offers more than 20,000 toys from some 100 manufacturers, and eventually will expand to include most of the quarter-million toys that Happinet handles.

e-Shopping! Books Corp., meanwhile, was formed on August 24 as a joint venture of Softbank (50 percent), Yahoo Japan (10 percent), convenience store chain Seven-Eleven Japan (30 percent), and book leading wholesaler Tohan (10 percent).

The e-Shopping! Books site carries about 1.4 million books and other publications distributed by Tohan. Plans call for adding multimedia products, such as music CDs and videos, to the site in the near future.

e-Shopping! Information Corp. was created earlier in November by Softbank subsidiaries Softbank Commerce (73.3 percent), Softbank Technology (16.7 percent), and Yahoo Japan (10 percent) to serve as central registration/online payment clearing house for these and future e-Shopping! sites.

Shoppers can pay for their purchases online by credit card or offline at any of Seven-Eleven's more than 7,800 stores nationwide, and may choose to have their order delivered to their home or to pick it up at their neighborhood Seven-Eleven.

A merit of the e-Shopping! model, said Softbank president Masayoshi Son, is that it offers "face-to-face payment and receipt of purchases after ordering at a virtual shop on the Internet, for the convenience of customers who aren't familiar with mail order."

"e-Shopping! makes effective use of existing distribution and delivery channels while also employing the capabilities of the Internet to maximum efficiency," said Softbank in a press release. "It is a unique service offering convenient payment and delivery options that other e-commerce sites cannot imitate."

Softbank has announced that a third e-Shopping! site, this one for automotive parts and accessories, will go online in May 2000.

e-Shopping! CarGoods Corp. will be established in January as a joint venture of Softbank affiliates Softbank Commerce (46 percent), Yahoo Japan (10 percent), and CarPoint Japan (5 percent) with service station chain Nisseki Mitsubishi (24 percent) and automotive parts distributor Empire Motor (15 percent).

Customers will be able to pay for and pick up their online purchases at any Nisseki Mitsubishi station and, optionally, have their purchases installed there.

While no others have yet been announced, e-Shopping! CarGoods will not be the last of the e-Shopping! JVs.

According to Softbank executive vice president Ken Miyauchi, who is currently serving as president of both e-Shopping! Toys and e-Shopping! Books, the company "would like to set up about 20 other similar companies in the future."