Japanese internet mogul Hiroshi Mikitani has apparently set his sights on the UK’s booming etail market with plans to launch his ‘virtual shopping mall’ here next year.

The Rakuten owner wants to attract UK retailers and consumers to the site, which generates leads for partners in return for monthly membership fees and a 2%-5% cut of sales.

Rakuten, according to The Independent, offers consumers a choice of 10m items and generates annual sales of around £3.3bn a year in Japan.

Mikitani told the paper: “Our intention is to launch in the UK by next year.”

The plan, he says, will be to initially offer a selection of ‘cult Japanese products’ to UK shoppers, before adding more local goods.

Some expect the site to be marketed as a route to market for smaller etailing players.

The move follows the recent opening of a London office by LinkShare, the US affiliate marketing firm bought by Rakuten for £215m two years ago.