NEW YORK/TOKYO (Reuters) – Walmart has struck a partnership with e-commerce firm Rakuten Inc to launch an online grocery delivery service in Japan, its latest effort to forge an alliance with a popular homegrown chain to crack a competitive market.

The world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, said on Thursday the service will launch in the latter half of 2018.

Walmart’s leadership is looking for new ways to grow its international business, which is no longer the growth engine it once was, as it has grappled with economic woes in Brazil and competition from discount retailers in Britain.

In Japan, the new service will replace Walmart’s existing online grocery delivery offering and will be called “Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper.” Seiyu GK is the name of Walmart’s wholly-owned Japanese unit.

It will allow customers to place an order on Rakuten’s online marketplace platform, which will then be fulfilled by the Walmart-Rakuten joint venture. Walmart-Rakuten will open a warehouse to service these orders in addition to using Seiyu stores, the companies said.

Fresh food delivery has been around in Japan for decades but has lagged the growth seen in other areas of e-commerce. Amazon is trialing its “Fresh” service in parts of Tokyo and retailers are trying to beef up their online grocery services.

Seven and i Holdings Co Ltd, operator of Japan’s largest chain of convenience stores, last year announced it would cooperate on fresh food delivery with Askul Corp.

Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani told reporters in Tokyo he hoped the joint effort could lead to cooperation in other areas.

“We would like…

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