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亚马逊接管西尔斯零售业霸权

Elizabeth G. Olson 2012年01月18日

曾几何时,人们可以通过西尔斯百货邮购任何想要的商品,甚至是一栋房子。到了上世纪90年代末,人们热衷的购物方式转了一个圈后又回到了“邮购”的原点,然而这一次,西尔斯这个零售业的老字号却掉队了。

    直到我们的爷爷奶奶这一辈人,西尔斯百货(Sears)仍然是美国中产阶级采购日常用品的金字招牌。西尔斯百货厚厚的产品目录是每个家庭的必备品,人们可以从西尔斯邮购任何商品,比如太阳镜、自行车等;甚至在上世纪最初的几十年,人们还能买到专利药品和配有厨房洗涤槽的预制活动房。

    西尔斯百货成立于19世纪末,当时号称“地球上最优惠的日用品商店”。全盛时期,这家公司每年发出的产品目录多达7,500万册,是送货上门市场的主导者。它可以把商品送到偏远的农场、城镇和其他地区。如今,消费者虽然还会浏览西尔斯百货的网站,但却选择亚马逊(Amazon)来订购商品。事实上,自上世纪90年代初开始,西尔斯百货的邮购服务订货量便已呈现下降趋势。

    零售业历史学家罗伯特•史派特曾出版过《亚马逊:快速做大的秘密》(Amazon.com: Get Big Fast)和其他关于零售商的图书。他认为:“亚马逊就是新时代的西尔斯百货。它同时也是新时期的沃尔玛(Walmart),新的巴诺书店(Barnes & Noble)和新的百思买(Best Buy)。”

    西尔斯百货未能借助科技时代的东风,重塑其悠久的品牌,刚刚过去的假日季节堪称一个注解。期间,零售业销量上涨,依托于互联网的零售业绩也出现飙升。但对西尔斯这家历史悠久的百货商店来说,更多的只是在一旁看热闹,并被迫宣布关闭120家店铺;不仅如此,公司还预测,刚刚过去三个月的收入跌幅可能会超过50%。要知道,这三个月通常是零售商最赚钱的销售旺季。

    史派特称,西尔斯百货“一直在吃老本,却没有努力实现创新。就如柯达(Kodak)一样,西尔斯百货没有抓住良机,实现突破。”

    当然,西尔斯百货仍然保住了一批忠诚的顾客。它所提供的耐用的肯摩尔(Kenmore)家电、可靠的工匠工具和制作精良的Lands' End牌服装总能抓住老客户的心。去年,西尔斯百货总销售额超过400亿美元,但与其短短几年前的年平均总销售额相比,下降的幅度已经超过了100亿美元。

    虽然亚马逊没有公布具体销售数据,但可以肯定的是,它在同一个假日季节已经获得了喜人的销售业绩。据康姆斯科公司(comScore)公布的消费数据显示,11月和12月,消费者互联网订单金额超过372亿美元,比去年同期增长了15%。

    位于西雅图的亚马逊公司成立于1994年,而此前一年,西尔斯百货的邮购业务终止了邮购业务。百货商店历史学家迈克尔•利斯基认为,如果当时西尔斯借助邮购业务打下的基础,利用其可靠的信誉,构建网络业务,肯定能巩固其在美国家庭消费领域的地位。

    利斯基著有多部关于美国百货商店历史的著作,其中包括最近出版的《金贝尔百货:应有尽有!》(Gimbels Has It!)。他认为:“如果西尔斯百货当初能够转向互联网,同时结合价格优势与送货上门的配送便利性,它原本可以拯救自己。”

    As recently as your grandparents' generation, Sears was the household goods icon for middle class Americans. The thick Sears catalog was the family go-to source for mail ordering anything from eyeglasses to bicycles, and, in earlier decades, even patent medicines and pre-cut houses complete with kitchen sinks.

    Sears, which opened for business in the late 19th century, called itself "The Cheapest Supply House on Earth," and, in its heyday, dominated home delivery with 75 million catalogs distributed each year, bringing goods to far flung farms, towns and other locations. But today's customer, who can browse the Sears website but not order from its catalog service, which was dropped in the early 1990s, is likely to be ordering from Amazon's marketplace instead.

    "Amazon is the new Sears," says Robert Spector, a retail historian who wrote Amazon.com: Get Big Fast, and other books on retailers. "It's also the new Walmart, the new Barnes & Noble and the new Best Buy."

    Sears (SHLD) has not retooled its venerable brand for the technology age, which was underscored this past holiday season when retail sales rose, and Internet sales soared, but the venerable store racked up such poor sales that it announced that it will close 120 stores, and projected that its earnings are likely to sink more than 50% for the most recent three months -- usually the time of the year that retailers rake in their biggest revenues.

    Sears, says Spector, "tried to hold onto what they were rather than trying to invent themselves. Like Kodak, Sears did not leap forward when it needed to do so."

    Yet Sears still has a loyal customer base, attracted by its sturdy Kenmore appliances, reliable Craftsman tools and well-made Lands' End clothing. It totaled more than $40 billion in sales last year, but that amount is down more than $10 billion from its annual totals only a few years ago.

    Amazon (AMZN), on the other hand, had healthy sales during the holiday season, although no specific figures have been released. Consumers spent more than $37.2 billion on overall Internet ordering in November and December -- up 15% over last year, according to figures released by comScore, which tracks such spending.

    The Seattle-based Amazon launched in 1994, one year after Sears dropped its mail order catalog operation, which department store historian Michael Lisicky believes could have been Sears' foundation to capitalize on its reliable reputation and to build a Web operation that could have cemented its place in the American home.

    "Sears could have saved itself if they had switched to an Internet strategy, and combined price and the convenience of things coming to the house," says Lisicky, who is the author of several department store histories, including the most recent "Gimbels Has It!"

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