Report: eBay To Launch “The Plaza,” A New Brand-Focused Online Mall For Retail Goods

According to a new report from Macquarie Capital, marketplace giant eBay is set to launch a new vertical this spring called The Plaza on eBay that will focus on direct-to-consumer sales.

As Macquarie analyst Ben Schachter notes in a report, details are sparse, but Plaza has been compared to Alibaba’s Tmall. One retailer with knowledge of eBay’s plans said that the site will allow brands to sell direct to consumers using eBay, but in a more controlled area than the traditional eBay marketplace. Basically, brands could use eBay to gain access to the company’s customers without weakening their brand by listing and selling alongside used and auctioned goods.

What this could be is a complete redesign of eBay Stores, which is a centralized place for retailers like Toys R Us and others to list items on eBay. But currently the branding isn’t all that different on eBay Stores from the auction marketplace. With a different branding, eBay could attract larger retailers. Alibaba has been successful in accomplishing this with Tmall in China. The WSJ reported last week that the online mall currently has over 70,000 digital storefronts, and retailers like Apple, Nike and Gap all have online stores on Tmall.

Whether eBay’s own “Tmall for the US” will be successful is another matter. eBay will have to convince brands like Apple or Nike that there is value in selling via eBay, as well as their own e-commerce sites. But in the company’s favor is the fact that the marketplace business has been growing, and the company is also seeing strong adoption of its mobile apps. Mobile as a platform for the mall could be a particularly interesting opportunity.

We reached out to eBay, and the company provided us with this response: “eBay partners with brands, designers and retailers – and sellers of all sizes – to help them grow their business. As such, we are always exploring new, innovative ways to help them market directly to eBay’s global audience and connect them to the things they need and love. We don’t comment on industry rumors or speculation.”

That’s not a denial, folks.