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巴诺启示录:小有小的好处

巴诺启示录:小有小的好处

Nin-Hai Tseng 2013年02月01日
巴诺计划在未来十年关闭旗下三分之一的零售书店,不仅仅是因为电子出版业的冲击,同时也是因为人们对小尺寸的追求。

    《华尔街日报》(The Wall Street Journal)周一报道称,巴诺(Barnes & Noble)计划在未来十年关闭旗下三分之一的零售书店。关停似乎不可避免。和其他零售商一样,这家连锁书店在数字世界里步履踉跄,读者日益转向电子书和在线折扣。巴诺的救星可以说是它推出的Nook平板电脑,但由于亚马逊(Amazon)、苹果(Apple)和谷歌(Google)等公司的竞争,Nook在圣诞假期的销量较一年前出现下滑。

    在互联网时代经营实体书店确实很难,但新技术只是巴诺面临的问题之一。美国如今越来越希望东西变得更小,巴诺的书店在这个国家显得太大了。

    金融危机过后,美国人喜欢上了小尺寸,从汽车到住房,一切东西都是如此。就连庞大的沃尔玛(Wal-Mart)商店都瘦身了。城市土地学会(Urban Land Institute)高级研究员埃德•麦克马洪说,这个世界上最大的零售商在1962年开设折扣店,店面面积平均为108,000平方英尺。到1988年,沃尔玛开设超市(Supercenter),平均为185,000平方英尺。但十年后,沃尔玛开设社区店(Neighborhood),平均仅为42,000平方英尺,比超市小了两倍多。2011年,沃尔玛商店继续减肥,其便利店(Express)平均只有15,000平方英尺。

    随着美国中产阶级离开城市迁往郊区,仓储式零售与其他很多零售商的做法不谋而合。麦克马洪说,从1960年到2000年,零售面积增加至原来的近十倍,从每人4平方英尺提高到38平方英尺。零售面积的增速比零售额的增速快了五倍。但金融危机使这种扩张戛然而止。现在有10亿多平方英尺的零售面积空置,其中大多曾是仓储式零售商做生意的地方。

    除了沃尔玛以外,向小看齐的趋势受到了几个因素的推动。有些因素已经讨论过,其他的尚未提及:人们结婚的年龄进一步推迟;美国城市的发展速度在几十年里首次超过郊区;剩余的郊区充斥着令人昏昏欲睡的商业中心地带,正在被改造成适于步行的城市空间。

    当然,互联网在实体店变小方面发挥了重要作用。麦克马洪说,正如超市导致大量本地商店倒闭一样,网络购物也影响到了仓储式零售商。

    但那些幸存的本地商店如今再次兴盛起来。这一点在图书市场上或许最为明显。大型连锁店遭遇破产和商店关停的那些年里,个体书店的数量在过去几年里大体上保持平稳。美国书商协会(American Booksellers Association)是支持个体书店的行业协会。该组织表示,自从金融危机以来,其会员的数量基本上保持不变,2008年是1,524个,到2012年是1,567个。那些年里确实有很多书店关门歇业,新开张的书店就算有也非常之少。但在2009年,新书店纷纷涌现。去年,全美有40家书店开张。

    但这些数字远远比不上巴诺的书店数量。到2009年为止,巴诺每年都会新开30家书店,甚至更多。但在大型连锁书店关闭旗下分店的时候,个体书店却纷纷涌现,这个事实在很大程度上说明了向小看齐和本地化的趋势。

    Barnes & Noble expects to close up to a third of its retail book stores over the next decade, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The closures seem inevitable. Like other retailers, the chain has struggled in a digital world, where readers increasingly turned to e-books and online discounts. Its savior is arguably its Nook products, but sales during the holiday season fell from a year earlier amid competition from the likes of Amazon, Apple, and Google.

    Indeed, it's hard to run a bookstore in the Internet age, but new technology is only part of Barnes & Noble's (BKS) problems. Its stores simply got too big in a nation that increasingly prefers things -- well, smaller.

    Since the financial crisis, Americans have warmed to smaller sizes in everything from cars to homes. Even massive Wal-Mart stores (WMT) have downsized. In 1962, the world's biggest retailer opened discount stores averaging 108,000 square feet, says Ed McMahon, senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute. By 1988, Wal-Mart unveiled its Supercenters, averaging 185,000 square feet. But a decade later it opened its Neighborhood markets, which, at an average of 42,000 square feet, was more than two times smaller than its Supercenters. The chain went even smaller in 2011, with its Express stores averaging 15,000 square feet.

    The big box trend coincided with what many other retailers did as America's middle class left cities for the suburbs. Between 1960 and 2000, retail space rose ten fold -- growing from 4 to 38 square feet per person, McMahon says. Retail space grew five times faster than retail sales. The financial crisis put an abrupt end to that expansion. There is now more than 1 billion square feet of vacant retail space, mostly where big box retailers once did business.

    Beyond Wal-Mart, going small is being driven by several factors - some related, others unrelated: People are getting married later; U.S. cities are growing faster than suburbs for the first time in decades; the remaining suburbs, filled with sleepy strip commercial centers, are being turned into walkable urban places.

    Of course, the Internet has played a big role in shrinking physical stores as well. Just as superstores put many local stores out of business, online shopping is hurting big box retailers, McMahon says.

    But some local stores that managed to stick around are now thriving again. This is perhaps most evident in the market for books. In the years where big-box chains saw bankruptcies and store closures, the number of independents have generally stayed steady during the past few years. The American Booksellers Association, a trade organization that supports independents says that since the depths of the Great Recession, it has had roughly the same number of members -- 1,524 in 2008 to 1,567 in 2012. Stores did indeed close during those years with few if any new openings, but in 2009, new ones sprung up. Last year, 40 opened nationwide.

    That's far fewer than Barnes & Noble, which until 2009 opened 30 or more a year. But the fact that any indie stores are opening at a time when big-box chains are closing says a lot about being small and local.

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