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外國零售商在華舉步維艱,但開市客有望殺出血路

Nisha Gopalan, 彭博社 2019年09月02日

開市客上海門店開在郊區,很適合愿意大批量采購的自駕購物者。

開市客在上海郊區開設的第一家中國門店迎來了開門紅,前景可觀。圖片來源:VCG/VCG/Getty Images

看著開市客在上海開業當天大批顧客涌入的視頻,你可能會想,為什么人們這么興奮?畢竟,之前的眾多外國零售商都在中國敗走滑鐵盧,每家在剛進入中國時都滿懷希望,然而掙扎多年之后只能黯然撤退。

家樂福在中國經營了20多年,今年6月還是賣掉了80%業務。樂購在2013年將中國業務并入了一家合資企業,麥德龍則正在為其中國業務尋找買家。

但跟大多數零售商相比,總部位于華盛頓州伊薩夸的開市客更有理由相信自己可以破解魔咒。

歐盟中國商會于上周三表示,中國正計劃將社會信用體系擴展到企業,合規成本會因此提升,可能導致一些公司破產。與此同時,網購正在從實體零售商手中奪取越來越多的市場份額。

盡管如此,上周二開市客第一家中國門店在上海開業時還是被擠爆了。其中當然有開業首日打折的影響,但火爆很可能不是曇花一現。

緬因大龍蝦和鉑金包都有得賣

中國的消費市場變化無常,零售業競爭激烈,利潤非常薄。不過,看起來開市客精心選擇了細分市場。上海門店開在郊區,很適合愿意大批量采購的自駕購物者,比如購買30包一大盒的曲奇或200盎司(約合6升)一瓶的洗滌劑。量販式售貨有助于開市客通過打折吸引顧客。

類似模式在人口密集的上海中心地區是行不通的,因為市中心大多數居民都住在狹小的公寓里,乘坐公共交通工具出行。不過,只要開市客能夠打入合適的郊區市場,就沒有什么問題。開市客在上海閔行區的新店停車位多達1200個,比其他任何門店都要多。

會員制是開市客向消費者推銷的關鍵因素。加入付費俱樂部能增加排他性氛圍,這可能很合中國購物者的口味,而且店里還能買到緬因大龍蝦、藍鰭金槍魚和鉑金包等高端產品。上周二開業時,顧客只需支付199元(約合28美元)的優惠年費就能成為開市客會員,以后則將提高至299元(約合41.73美元)。

開市客已經證明復制倉儲量販模式可行,在日本、中國臺灣省和韓國都很成功。過去10年間,開市客國際業務的營收增長了兩倍多。

開市客的營銷:比山姆會員店高端

沃爾瑪旗下的會員制倉儲式連鎖企業山姆會員店進入中國已經有20多年,所以有理由對開市客入華后的前景樂觀。山姆會員店通過增加私人牙科診所等服務(并因此收取更高的會員費)進軍高端市場,并計劃將中國門店的數量從今年年初的23家增加到2020年的40家。《中國日報》援引山姆會員店(中國)高級副總裁陳志宇的話稱,市場狀況表明過去一兩年里,中國消費者為更優質服務買單的意愿有所增強。

開市客定位是比山姆會員店更加高端的購物場所,還打造了提供優質生鮮食品的聲譽,可能變成抵御電商最好的堡壘。畢竟電商獲得了風投大筆資金。大多數中國購物者買蔬菜還是喜歡能摸得著,至少得能夠親眼看見。最近一個季度中,沃爾瑪的中國銷售額在山姆會員店的推動之下增長了4.7%,主要就靠生鮮食品推動。

開市客曾經與阿里巴巴集團達成為期五年的在線合作協議,主要為了推廣旗艦自有品牌柯克蘭,此舉協助公司在進軍實體零售市場之前就樹立好品牌。在中國嚴苛的零售業格局之下,充分整合在線零售和實體零售戰略才有可能蓬勃發展。正如沃爾瑪在2019年年報中指出:“在中國許多城市,說是當天送貨,實際上是指一小時內送貨。”沃爾瑪與中國電商巨頭京東保持著合作。

開市客上周二股價上漲5%,創下自今年3月以來的最大單日漲幅。股價或許高估了該公司在中國市場上的擴張潛力,很可能只會出現溫和漸進式增長,尤其剛起步階段。不過如果開市客能夠在中國目前的市場環境里繁榮發展,站穩腳跟應該不成問題。 (財富中文網)

譯者:艾倫

審校:夏林

Watching news video of the crowds descending on Costco's opening day in Shanghai, you might wonder, why all the excitement? After all, China has been a graveyard for many foreign retailers, after arriving with grand hopes, only to pull back after years of debilitating struggle.

Carrefour SA sold 80% of its operations in June after more than two decades in the country, Tesco Plc folded its business into a joint venture in 2013, and Metro AG is seeking a buyer for its Chinese unit.

However, Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco Wholesale Corp. has more reason than most to believe it can buck the trend.

China’s plan to extend its social credit system to corporations will raise compliance costs and could put some firms out of business, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said last Wednesday. At the same time, online shopping is increasingly taking market share from bricks-and-mortar retailers.

But none of that stopped Costco’s first Chinese outlet, in Shanghai, from being mobbed on its last Tuesday opening. It’s also probably not a flash in the pan, opening-day discounts notwithstanding.

Selling Maine lobster and Birkin bags

China’s consumer markets are fickle and retail is viciously competitive, with razor-thin margins. Still, Costco looks to have picked its niche carefully. The Shanghai outlet is in a suburban district, aiming to cater to car-driving shoppers willing to load up with bulk items such as 30-pack boxes of cookies or 200-fluid-ounce (6-liter) bottles of detergent. Selling in quantity helps enable the discounts that underpin Costco’s appeal.

Such a model wouldn’t work in the more built-up central areas of Shanghai, where most people live in cramped apartments and take public transport. That needn’t matter to Costco, though, as long as the U.S. retailer can find enough suitable suburban markets. Costco’s outlet in Shanghai’s Minhang district has parking space for 1,200 cars, more than any other of its locations.

Membership is a key element of Costco’s pitch to consumers. Being part of a fee-paying club adds an aura of exclusivity that may play well with Chinese shoppers, particularly when the Shanghai store offers high-end products such as Maine lobsters, bluefin tuna, and Birkin bags. Costco was charging an introductory membership fee of 199 yuan ($28) at last Tuesday’s opening, which will rise to 299 yuan ($41.73).

Costco already has shown that it can export its warehouse model, building successful operations in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Revenue from international operations more than tripled in the past 10 years.

Marketing Costco as a high-end Sam's Club

Sam’s Club, the warehouse membership chain owned by Walmart Inc., has been in China for more than 20 years, which gives cause for optimism on Costco’s entry. Sam’s Club has pushed upmarket by adding services such as private dental clinics (for a higher membership fee) and aims to increase outlets in the country to 40 in 2020, from 23 at the start of this year. This demonstrates how Chinese consumers in the past one-two years have become more willing to pay for better services, according to Chen Zhiyu, senior vice president of Sam's Club China, as cited by the China Daily.

Costco positions itself as a higher-end shopping destination than Sam’s Club, and has built a reputation for quality fresh food. That may be the company’s best bulwark against the encroachment of internet operators. Venture capital money has been pouring into online grocers. Even so, most shoppers in China still like to touch or at least see their vegetables with their own eyes. Sam's Club drove a 4.7% surge in Walmart’s China sales in its most recent quarter, thanks largely to fresh-food sales.

Costco has had a five-year online partnership with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. in China to market its flagship private label Kirkland. That’s helped to build the company’s name in China ahead of its entry to physical retail. A strategy that integrates the two may be critical to flourish in China’s demanding retail landscape. “In many parts of China, same-day delivery really means same-hour delivery,” as Walmart observed in its 2019 annual report. The Sam’s Club owner has a partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com Inc.

Shares of Costco rose 5% on last Tuesday, the most since March. That may overstate the potential from a Chinese expansion that’s likely to be modest and incremental, at least at first. But if Costco can thrive in China’s current conditions, it should be there to stay.

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