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经济学人:零售业遭遇沉重打击

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Retail

零售业

Hard knocks

沉重打击

Department stores have been losing customers to other retailers for decades. But some are thriving

几十年来,百货公司的消费者一直在转向其他零售商,但是一些百货公司正在复兴。

Aug 17th 2013 | NEW YORK |From the print edition

IN THE shopping calendar, the back-to-school period ranks behind only Christmas in importance to American retailers. It is a time for outfitting tots with superhero rucksacks and fashion-conscious teens with “metallic” oxford shoes. But events off the sales floor have distracted merchants from the tinkling of tills. In July Hudson’s Bay, a Canadian department-store chain, said it would buy Saks, an upmarket American one, for $2.4 billion. Then on August 13th Bill Ackman, an activist investor, quit the board of J.C. Penney, a less luxurious retailer, after a failed attempt to hasten the departure of its interim boss, Mike Ullman (see article).

在购物时间表上,返校季对美国零售商来说是仅次于圣诞节的重要时期。这时候运动装搭配印有超级英雄图案的背包以及时尚的青少年所爱的金属色牛津鞋都将大卖。但是卖场之外的一些事件让商人们分心。7月,一家加拿大零售连锁店哈德逊湾表示将会收购以24亿美元的价格收购美国高档百货公司萨克斯百货。接着8月13日,激进投资者比尔·阿克曼退出了彭尼的董事会。彭尼是一家相对低端的零售公司,阿克曼在该公司催促其临时老板Mike Ullman退出未果后离开。

Both events are symptoms of the weakness of department stores. J.C. Penney has not recovered from the short but disruptive reign of Ron Johnson, who tried to break shoppers’ addiction to price promotions but drove them away instead. He left in April. Saks is not a basket case (partly because its customers are richer). Richard Baker, the American property tycoon who controls Hudson’s Bay, has ambitious plans. But none involves new, full-sized stores in America. Instead, there will be savings of C$100m ($97m) a year, a push into Canada and more discount outlets.

上述两个事件是百货公司疲软的征兆。彭尼还没从罗恩·约翰逊短暂却充满破坏性的任职期恢复过来。当时罗恩试图停止价格促销,结果赶跑了消费者。他在四月离职。萨克斯百货也不是毫无是处(部分原因是其大部分消费者相对较富)。美国房地产大亨理查德·贝克控制着哈德逊湾百货公司,他有雄伟的计划。但是计划中不包括在美国开设新的大型商店。取而代之的是,每年节省出1亿加元(9700万美元)开发加拿大市场,提供更多折扣直销。

The humbling of department stores began in the 1960s. First specialised retailers, their shopping-mall neighbours, stole sales, as did discounters. Then came “category killers”, which laid claim to electronics and toys, for example, followed by online-only retailers, the current menace. America’s biggest department-store group, Sears Holdings, is one of its sickest. J.C. Penney’s customers defected not to rival stores but to discounters like T.J. Maxx.

百货公司的衰退始于60年代。首先是紧邻百货公司的专营商和折扣商店抢了百货公司的生意。然后是品类杀手,比如只经营电子产品和玩具的专卖店,接着是线上零售商,正是当前的威胁。美国最大的百货商店集团希尔斯控股集团是最惨的。彭尼的的消费者大都转战折扣店T.J. Maxx去了。

It would be tempting to write off department stores altogether if some were not doing surprisingly well. Same-store sales at Nordstrom, a Seattle-based luxury retailer, have risen by 7.5% on average over the past three years. Those of Macy’s, which operates mainly in the tougher middle market, rose by 4.5% (but its second-quarter results, released on August 14th, were disappointing). Department stores started collecting data about their customers through loyalty-card schemes long before their rivals, says Mortimer Singer of Marvin Traub Associates, a consultancy. When these relationships shift to tablets and smartphones and are linked to modern logistics and inventory management, department stores have a fighting chance.

但是还是有些百货商店做的不错。立足于西雅图的奢侈品零售商诺德斯特姆公司的同店销售额过去三年平均增长率为7.5%。梅西百货立足于竞争激烈的中端市场,销售额提高了4.5%(但是8月14日发布的二季度表现令人失望)。Marvin Traub Associates咨询公司的Mortimer Singer表示,百货商店通过忠诚卡计划开始收集消费者信息远远早于其竞争对手。当这些关系转移到平板电脑和智能手机上的时候,加上现代物流体系和库存管理,百货公司还有翻身的机会。

Nordstrom’s newest stores have more mobile devices for accepting payment than fixed ones. With them, salespeople can tell, for example, if a customer is close to an upgrade, which would entitle her to such goodies as free alterations to clothing. She can then be encouraged to claim the benefit by buying a little more. Nordstrom’s grasp of inventory is good enough that shoppers can check online whether an item is available at a specific store.

诺德斯特姆最新的商店比起老店有更多的移动设备支付方式。依靠这些移动设备,店员可以判断很多东西,比如消费者近期是否需要更新自己的装备,这样她就会享有免费更换服装的优惠。然后如果消费者多买点东西就会享有这个特权了。诺德斯特姆的库存控制能让顾客在线上看到某种商品在某个店是否有货。

One of Macy’s tricks is to use its shops as distribution centres. This expands choice online and prevents stock going unsold. An unwanted coat in Boston can be shipped to a shivering shopper in Boise. That sounds expensive but “if you can prevent a markdown, that covers a lot of shipping costs and satisfies the customer,” says Karen Hoguet, Macy’s finance chief.

梅西百货的一个小招数是将其商店用作配送中心。这样就增加了线上选择,同时也防止了库存积压。波士顿卖不出去的一件大衣可以运到博尔西卖出去。梅西百货的财务主管卡伦·霍格特说,这样看起来很昂贵,但是如果你不降价的话,就能填补配送费用并且满足消费者。

Mr Singer thinks that such wizardry makes “the next ten years incredibly promising” for some department stores. Perhaps not for J.C. Penney and Saks. Penney has burned through cash at an alarming rate this year; confidence among lenders and suppliers has been further shaken by boardroom infighting, says Liz Dunn, an analyst at Macquarie Securities. Saks would be lucky to thrive in the hands of a property mogul and may be bested in Canada by Nordstrom, which is also marching north, believes Robin Lewis, a retail pundit. Department stores have some hard schooling ahead of them.

Singer先生认为这些计策使得很多百货商店未来十年看起来非常有希望。或许跟彭尼百货公司和萨克斯百货没什么关系。彭尼今年亏损严重,麦格理证券分析师利兹·杜恩表示董事会的内战进一步减弱了借贷者和供应商的信心。萨克斯百货在房地产大亨的掌控下会比较幸运。零售界权威人士罗宾·路易斯相信,萨克斯公司会被同样向北部加拿大进军的诺德斯特姆击败。百货公司前面一片荆棘。

重点单词   查看全部解释    
payment ['peimənt]

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n. 支付,付款,报偿,报应

 
hasten ['heisn]

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v. 催促,赶快,急忙

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check [tʃek]

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n. 检查,支票,账单,制止,阻止物,检验标准,方格图案

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logistics [ləu'dʒistiks]

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n. 后勤学,运筹学,物流

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interim ['intərim]

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adj. 中间的,暂时的,临时的
n. 中间时

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promising ['prɔmisiŋ]

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adj. 有希望的,有前途的

 
menace ['menis]

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n. 威胁,胁迫
v. 威吓,胁迫

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claim [kleim]

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n. 要求,要求权;主张,断言,声称;要求物

 
stock [stɔk]

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n. 存货,储备; 树干; 血统; 股份; 家畜

 
benefit ['benifit]

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n. 利益,津贴,保险金,义卖,义演
vt.

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