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Tesco turns Chinese in Qingdao 乐购青岛走向本土化

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January 10 – Qingdao

Tesco, oddly enough, was the first supermarket I visited when I arrived in China in June 2008. The store inside the Luwan stadium was next to the block of serviced apartments where we stayed in our first month.

It was a dire store. The vegetables looked limp and old, the meat gave off a strange smell, the layout was indecipherable and no one seemed to be buying much. I quickly gave up on Tesco’s China strategy and never went back.

Until last weekend, when I arrived in Qingdao and saw the new Tesco hypermarket and the shopping centre that Tesco has built around it. It seems the supermarket giant has got serious. It invested £500 million (5.4 billion yuan) in China last year and plans to spend even more next year.

The money is going on a series of 23 giant shopping centres, some of which have blocks of apartments and cinemas attached. Tesco is going into the property development game (hohum, sometimes I think this is the only game to play in China). This way, it can have its pick of sites for its stores and lay them out a bit better than that store in Luwan (which is being renovated, apparently).

One Tesco executive tells me that they are opening four more shopping centres in the south in November, December, January and then February. The cinemas, in particular, should do well. “In the US, there is a cinema for every 400 people,” he says. “In China, there is one for every 180,000, so you can see there’s a growth potential”. The rush to open these stores is because WalMart and Carrefour are far ahead of Tesco.

The new Tesco store itself is impressive. It spans two floors and is laid out to focus on the core items that Chinese shoppers look out for: cooking oil, eggs, pork, toilet paper, rice etc. However, it also stocks a mind-boggling array of produce. Tesco says it has 2,000 suppliers for the store, who make 800 direct deliveries each week. The logistics of running that many suppliers is mind-boggling and Tesco is busy building distribution hubs so that it can mastermind its supplies better.

The “marketplace” is much cleaner than in the old Tesco, with fewer iffy smells, but retains all the chaos that Tesco insists makes Chinese shoppers happy. The store refers to the shouting and shoving as “theatre”. And there is one innovation that has come from Korea, apparently. A fine mist is constantly sprayed over the vegetables from overhead, making them look fresh and just out of the fridge. The system appears to have been rigged up, shanzhai-style, from a length of drainpipe painted green and I imagine it won’t be long before it is replicated across stores elsewhere.

The boss, Ken Towle, has a remarkable command of every price and every product he stocks. He discusses the elasticity of demand for eggs, which are sold loose in the store and sometimes decanted into plastic bags for customers who just want the liquid to take away. He says that a tiny fluctuation in the price of eggs can spark mad rushs. A 20 per cent price drop, he adds, would cause a stampede in store (the store is already packed out – the police restricted the entrances but around 60,000 shoppers were expected to pass through).

Meanwhile, the store has also reached out to the local community. Through the neighbourhood committees, Tesco invited locals to do their morning exercises in the forecourt, set up a CD player, handed out warm coats and also hot drinks. This sort of thoughtfulness costs nothing and generates a lot of goodwill.

It is early days, and Tesco clearly doesn’t have the guanxi in Qingdao to fill its shopping centre with the big name shops. Much of the mall looked like it had been filled with mom-and-pop shops that were happy to upgrade to shiny new premises. The only really recognisable Chinese brands on offer were Li Ning and Erke. It will be interesting to see if the bold strategy works though, and with the speed Tesco is expanding, it shouldn’t take long before the results are evident.

1月10日,青岛

很巧合的是,我2008年6月第一次来中国的时候,去的第一家超市就是乐购。那家乐购在上海卢湾体育馆内,靠近我们最初的一个月居住的酒店式公寓旁边。

那家乐购环境实在糟糕。蔬菜看起来蔫蔫的,不新鲜,肉类散发着奇怪的味道。店面布局混乱,也没什么人买东西。我对乐购在中国的发展完全失望了,决定不当回头客。

直到上个周末,我去了青岛,参观了那里新开的乐购大超市还有周围乐购自建的购物中心。看来乐购这个超市巨头开始认真起来了。去年乐购在中国总共投资了五亿英镑(合五十四亿人民币),明年预计还有更大笔的投资。

这五亿英镑主要花在了23家巨型购物中心上,有些中心甚至配有公寓和影院设施。乐购开始涉足地产开发项目了(真是的,有时我觉得这是中国唯一可参与的游戏),这样乐购就可以选择开店的地址,进行合理的店面布局,至少要比卢湾的那家强(不过显然那家也新近装修过)。

乐购的一位经理告诉我十一月,十二月,一月,二月里,乐购要在中国南部城市连续开四家购物中心。特别是影院,应该生意会不错。“在美国,每400人就有一家影院,”他说道,“在中国,是每十八万人才有一家影院,这个发展的空间可想而知了。”乐购加快开店的原因是沃尔玛和家乐福已经远远走在了前头。

青岛的新乐购超市本身就很引人注目。这家店一共有两层楼,店面醒目位置摆设是中国消费者关注常用的物品,食用油,鸡蛋,猪肉,纸巾,大米等等。然尔,店里也有一些令人费解的系列商l品。乐购有两千左右的供应商,每周会接收800多趟的直线送货。经营如此数量众多的供应商本身是令人吃惊费解的,乐购目前也忙着筹建运销配给中心,方便以后总店的统一策划。

比起旧店来,新店的“菜市场”那块要干净的多,也没有可疑的味道,但还是一如既往的混乱嘈杂,乐购坚持认为中国客户会比较喜欢这样的买菜环境。乐购把这些叫嚷,还有推搡称为“有戏剧色彩”。这家新店采用了一项来自韩国的新设施。蔬菜制品的上空不间断地喷洒着水汽,一层薄雾笼罩其上,这样蔬菜看起来很新鲜,像是刚从冰箱里取出来一样。不过这个设备看起来像是做工粗糙的山寨产品,用的是一段漆成绿色的排水管。大概不要多久,就会被其它超市借鉴仿制吧。

新店老板Ken Towle对每件货品和其价格都了如指掌。他和我们谈到了鸡蛋的弹性需求。鸡蛋在店里是散装卖的,有时甚至打散放到塑料袋里,给客户直接拎回家。他说鸡蛋价格的一点点波动就会造成疯狂的抢购。价格下降20%的话,甚至能导致店里的踩踏事件(当时超市里已经人满为患,有警卫守在门口,还有六万多人要进来)。

同时,乐购也开始和当地的社区交流互动。通过街道居委,乐购邀请当地居民来超市的前广场晨练,会放置一个CD机,发放大衣,甚至送上热饮。这种细致周到的服务没什么成本可言,却会为超市赢来宝贵的信誉好评。

青岛的乐购刚刚开业,显然还没来得及和当地政府打好关系,将品牌商店引进到乐购购物中心来。目前购物中心大部分被小商小贩占据了,乐购自然希望能将其升级成靓丽闪光的商铺群。目前同意进驻的稍具知名度的中国品牌只有李宁和鸿星尔克。我倒很期盼看看乐购这一大胆扩张策略能否顺利实施,以乐购目前的开店速度来看,应该不用多久就能看出效果了。

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Written by malcolmmoore

January 13, 2010 at 7:29 pm

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The recent history of China’s foreign policy

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Gao Zhikai, or Victor Gao, was Deng Xiaoping’s old interpreter and sat in on some of China’s earliest encounters with the outside world, including the 1986 meeting between Deng and John Phelan, the then chairman of the NY stock exchange, during which Deng decided that China must have its own stock exchange.

Today, he is an executive director of the Beijing Private Equity Association and a director of the China National Association of International Studies, and has held positions with Morgan Stanley, PCCW and CNOOC.

But it was his early knowledge of Beijing’s interactions with the outside world that were most relevant for a piece about how Britain should handle its relationship with China.

In his view, China’s foreign policy history during the post-Mao period can be split into three periods:

1. 1978 to 1989: Deng Xiaoping’s opened up China to the outside world after decades of isolation. During this period, China’s tacit support for US policy helped bring about the end of the Soviet Union and the end of Communism in Europe. Mr Gao said China and the US were trading military and political information, and that the US was in the process of selling China helicopters and fighter-jet guidance technology.

2. 1989 to 2001: After the events in Tiananmen Square, the US turned its back on China. A UN resolution was passed against China and sanctions were imposed. No diplomatic meetings took place from 1989 to 1993, when Bill Clinton finally met Jiang Zemin on the fringes of the Apec conference in Seattle. “This was a sensitive and difficult time for China,” said Mr Gao, pointing out that with the Cold War over, China emerged as the next natural ideological enemy for the US, even though its brand of “communism” was a world away from Soviet marxism.

3. Post 2001: After the September 11 attacks, the US reconciled to China, aware that Beijing was a valuable ally in the war against terror, since (a) China has a Western border with Afghanistan and (b) China is not ideological at all, unlike, say Islamic fundamentalists. In addition, China’s admission to the WTO had helped push the country forward economically and given it an incentive to play a bigger role on the world stage.

Last year, said Mr Gao, was a major year of transition. A year in which China fully turned from introverted to outward-looking. The old policy of remaining a humble and non-speaking partner is finally dead and China expressed its position strongly at every international summit, from the G20 to Copenhagen.

Nevertheless, it is clear that there have to be some structural changes in the CCP bureaucracy before foreign policy is given the role it deserves. For their part, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao have travelled abroad to cement business ties, rather than to play the grand game of international diplomacy.

Mr Gao pointed out that the Foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, is not even in the enlarged politburo. “There are two to three dozen officials higher up that him, compared to the US, where the Secretary of State is number two or three”, he said.

高志凯(Victor Gao),曾任邓小平的翻译,陪同参与了中国最早期的一些外事活动,包括1986年邓小平与时任纽约证券交易所所长的John
Phelan的会面。邓小平在该会议中决定中国也必须建立自己的证券市场。

高先生目前是北京股权投资基金协会的常务理事,还是中国国际关系学会的理事,同时也在摩根斯坦利,电讯盈科和中海油担任要职。

自然,还是高先生早期的中国外交工作经历和认知对我们这篇英国应如何处理对华关系的报道最有裨益。

高先生的观点是中国外交政策的发展历史在后毛泽东时代可以划分为三个阶段:

1. 1978年到1989年,在相对闭关锁国几十年后,邓小平打开了中国和外界交流的通道。在此期间,中国对美国政策的默许支持帮助实现了苏联瓦解和欧洲共产主义的终结。高先生称中美当时交换军事和政治方面的消息,美国甚至准备向华出售直升机和战斗机的指导技术。

2. 1989年到2001年,天安门事件之后,美国冷淡了与中国的关系。联合国通过了制裁中国的决议,并予以实施。1989到1993年,中美之间没有外交往来,直到1993年克林顿和江泽民在西雅图召开的欧佩克会议上的会面。“这对中国来说是一段敏感而困难的时期”,高指出,随着冷战的结束,中国自然而然成为了美国下一个意识形态方面的敌人,尽管中国的“共产主义”和苏联的马克思主义相去甚远。

3. 2001年至今,911之后,美国向中国递出了橄榄枝,冀望中国成为反恐战争中的重要伙伴,原因有二,一是中国西部和阿富汗接壤,其二,中国并没有极端的意识形态,例如伊斯兰原教旨主义。此外,中国加入世贸组织之后,国内经济有所推进,自然在国际事务上想扮演更重要的角色。

高先生认为去年是很关键的过渡转型的一年。在过去的一年里,中国由内向型主导完全转向了外向型发展。以前奉行的谦卑缄默的政策已经是过去式,取而代之的是在每一个国际峰会上,从G20到哥本哈根,都强调中国的地位和立场。

尽管如此,中共的官僚机构必须有所结构调整,以赋予其外交政策应得的地位。目前,胡锦涛和温家宝出访列国,只是为了加强经济纽带,而不是下国际外交这盘大棋。

高先生指出外交部长杨洁篪甚至不在扩大后的政治局名单中。“他的上面还有二三十位政府领导,而在美国国务卿是位列第二或者第三的。”

Written by malcolmmoore

January 6, 2010 at 3:41 pm