【英语中国】台湾便利店:要多便利有多便利 How Convenient: In Taiwan, The 24/7 Store Does It All

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所属分类:双语中国

2014-5-21 15:48

小艾摘要: Yata Wang visits a convenience store each day for breakfast. He returns after lunch for some sweets. Then afternoon tea. Then a late-night snack. 'Convenience stores are like braised pork rice,' said ...
How Convenient: In Taiwan, The 24/7 Store Does It All
Yata Wang visits a convenience store each day for breakfast. He returns after lunch for some sweets. Then afternoon tea. Then a late-night snack.

'Convenience stores are like braised pork rice,' said Mr. Wang, a Taipei art vendor. 'They are everywhere in Taiwan but you still keep longing for their flavor.'

Such ardent, high-frequency patronage is the norm here -- and no wonder. Taiwan's convenience stores are some of the most convenient in the world.

Beyond the staple snacks, they provide a ballooning array of services including dry cleaning, train and concert ticket reservations, traffic fine and utility payment, hot sit-down meals, mail drop-off and book pickup. They also deliver everything from refrigerators to multicourse banquets that feature fatty pork stacked in a pile, half a dozen varieties of chicken feet and a nearly 8-pound suckling pig that rotates on a battery-powered spit.

Convenience stores jostle shoulder to shoulder in urban areas like Taipei. But when you climb Alishan Mountain or fly to the remote Taiwanese islands of Penghu, you'll find at least a few of the gleaming storefronts that greet you with a dual assault of a singsong electronic door chime and clerks repeating, 'Huanying guanglin, huanying guanglin' ('welcome, welcome') each time a foot crosses the threshold.

The profusion of convenience stores in Taiwan's landscape has resulted in a deep fervor among the populace. So much so that hundreds of people paid up to $46 a seat at a Taipei theater this year to see a musical about 7-Eleven Taiwan's mascot, Open-Chan (His name derives from 7-Eleven's 24-hour operation).

The company trumpets Open-Chan, an extraterrestrial dog from the planet Open, as 'the first cartoon spokesperson in the convenience retailing industry of Taiwan.' He also has a music album, shopping mall and theme park to his name.

The 7-Eleven mascot recently added musicals to his repertoire with 'The Great Adventure of the Magical Planet.' In the show, Open-Chan sashays with his sidekicks to lyrics such as, 'The magic words are Open, Open, Open.'

'I just love Open-Chan so much,' said Huang Shulin, a Taipei teacher, at one of the shows. 'I collect everything with his face on it. Dolls. Pens.'

While retailer freebies are often regarded as low-grade throwaways, those from Taiwan's convenience stores have ascended to higher echelons of prestige.

On a Friday evening, Taipei businessman Richard Kao bought armloads of food at a 7-Eleven to collect enough stickers to earn a limited-edition alarm clock prize.

'I want 20 of the clocks,' Mr. Kao told the clerk. 'I will buy as much stuff as needed to get them.'

Mr. Kao said he planned to give the clocks as gifts to his business clients.

'This is a meaningful gift,' he said. 'If you are willing to collect convenience store stickers for someone, it shows you really care.'

Why Taiwan's people like convenience stores so much remains in dispute. One argument says the fascination dates back to the Taiwanese general store, a fixture of life before the island became a modern economic powerhouse. Others say it comes from the busy Taiwanese lifestyle, giving rise to workaholic lonely hearts who don't know how to cook.

'A lot of our customers are single working women,' said Wang Fei-Chen, 7-Eleven Taiwan's chief merchandiser in the fresh food department.

Yen-Fen Tseng, a professor of sociology at National Taiwan University, said that convenience stores are so popular in Taiwan because they have ingrained themselves as a part of the communities in each neighborhood.

'Convenience stores function as a community entrance,' she said. 'They are comparable to the village temple in days of yore.'

She adds that aversion to walking also may play a role as people want everything they need within a few footsteps. 'People really hate walking here.'

Whatever the reason, they are a cultural fixture that resonates. A Taiwan Family Mart video of elementary school children pretending to work as convenience store clerks quickly went viral in March, racking up more than 2.5 million views.

Taiwan's major convenience store chains have also added seating areas in recent years to try to keep their customers around longer. This has resulted in them becoming popular hangouts, for everyone from suited businesspeople conducting meetings, to students siphoning off the free Wi-Fi to watch soap operas, to late night clubbers taking a breather to find their second wind. Stores are open 24 hours every day.

'Unlike coffee shops, they won't shoo you away if you stay too long,' said Lin May-jun, an insurance saleswoman who regularly entertains potential customers at a 7-Eleven in Taipei.

With the passion for convenience stores in Taiwan, one might think it is easy enough to do business. But insiders say competition is cutthroat, margins are thin and innovations are copied rapidly.

'We aren't Apple, we can't patent our ideas,' said Alex Chao, an administrative manager of Taiwan's third-largest convenience-store chain, Hi-Life. 'We came up with the idea of attaching a plastic lid to the top of the pot of guandongzhu, (a popular snack of bite-sized meats and vegetables simmering in hot broth) to keep out the dust. Now everyone has lids.'

There is also a constant battle of keeping up with the Joneses in terms of offerings and convenience. When 7-Eleven Taiwan announced it would sell customized flat-screen TVs last year, Family Mart quickly launched its own sets.

'We are also making inquiries into TVs,' said Mr. Chao, of Hi-Life.

While Taiwan's convenience stores are always getting more convenient, there are limits.

'At one point, we offered custom-made breakfast sandwiches cooked on the spot,' said Mr. Chao. 'But we had to stop that. People liked them so much that the lines got really long. And then it was no longer convenient.'

Yata Wang每天都去便利店吃早餐。午饭之后他还会去便利店买甜点,之后是下午茶,再之后是夜宵。

7-Eleven台湾7-ELEVEN便利店吉祥物Open小将的英文名为Open-Chan。台湾还有以Open小将命名的音乐专辑和主题公园。Yata Wang在台北做艺术品生意。他说,便利店就像扣肉饭,在台湾随处可见,但你还是渴望闻到它的香味。

这种主顾踏破便利店门槛的情形在台湾并不少见。台湾便利店所能提供的便利在全球都是数得着的。

除了贩卖零食小吃外,便利店还提供一系列其它服务,包括干洗、火车票和音乐会门票预订、交通罚款和公用事业费缴纳、现吃热餐、邮件中转以及取书。它们还提供从冰箱到宴会套餐的送货服务,这种套餐包括多道菜肴,主要有扣肉、六烧凤爪以及串在靠电池供电的烤具上旋转烤制的重约8磅的烤乳猪。

便利店密集分布在台北等城市地区。但你去爬阿里山或飞到台湾偏远的澎湖列岛的话,也至少能找到几家便利店,一跨进门就会有入店铃声响起,同时能听见店员说:欢迎光临,欢迎光临。

台湾便利店的无所不在使人们对便利店有了很深的感情。今年有许多人观看了在台北一家剧院演出的一台关于台湾7-ELEVEN便利店吉祥物Open小将的舞台剧,该剧最高票价为46美元。Open小将的英文名Open-Chan源自7-ELEVEN全天24小时不打烊的经营模式。

7-ELEVEN以“台湾便利零售业第一个卡通代言人”为卖点宣传Open小将这只来自Open星球的小狗。台湾还有以Open小将命名的音乐专辑、购物城和主题公园。

7/11的这个吉祥物最近还推出了一部名为《魔法星球的大冒险》的舞台剧。在舞台剧中,Open小将和他的朋友边跳舞边唱着:“我的魔法咒语是Open,Open,Open。”

台北的一位教师黄叔琳(音)说:我就是非常喜欢Open小将;我收集了所有有他头像的东西:玩偶、钢笔。

零售商赠品常常被视为低档次的广告宣传,但是台湾便利店的赠品却已经升华到了更高层次。

Open-Chan一个周五的晚上,台北商人Richard Kao在7/11买了一大堆食物,只是为了积攒足够的贴纸获得限量款的闹钟。

Kao对收银员说:我要20个这样的闹钟;我会买足够多的东西来换它们。

Kao说他打算把这些闹钟作为礼物送给客户。

他说,这是有意义的礼物;如果你愿意为某个人积攒便利店贴纸,就意味着你真的在乎这个人。

台湾人为什么这么喜欢便利店还没有定论。一种观点认为,台湾人对便利店的喜爱来源于台湾杂货店,在台湾成为强大的现代经济体之前,杂货店是人们生活中的一个必备因素。还有一种观点认为,这是因为台湾人的生活方式较为忙碌,不会做饭的单身工作狂们数量增多。

7/11台湾生鲜食品部门首席业务员Wang Fei-Chen说,许多顾客是单身职业女性。

台湾大学社会学教授曾 芬说,便利店之所以在台湾这么流行是因为它们已经成为每个邻里社区的一部分。

她说,便利店发挥了社区入口的作用,如同旧时代的村庙一样。

她还说,人们讨厌走路可能也是便利店受欢迎的原因之一,人们希望在几步之遥便可以买到所有东西。她说,台湾人真的讨厌走路。

无论出于什么原因,便利店已成为一种能够引起共鸣文化设施。3月份台湾全家便利店(Family Mart)制作的一个小学生模仿便利店员工工作的视频迅速走红,浏览次数超过250万次。

近年来,台湾一些主要的便利连锁店还在店内增添了座位区,这是为了让消费者在店内停留更长时间。便利店因此成为大受欢迎的聚会场所,这里既能看到西装革履的商人在一起开会,也能看到使用免费无线网上网看肥皂剧的学生,还能看到深夜从夜店出来休息的人们。这些便利店每天24小时营业。

林美君(音)是一名保险产品销售员,她经常在台北的一家7-11便利店招待潜在客户。她说,这里和咖啡店不一样, 待再长时间他们也不会赶你走。

既然台湾人对便利店这么有热情, 可能会想做这一行肯定很容易。但业内人士称,实际上竞争非常激烈,这一行利润率很低,一有创新就会立刻被模仿。

台湾第三大便利连锁店Hi-Life的行政经理Alex Chao说:“我们和苹果公司(Apple)不一样,没办法为自己的点子申请专利;我们曾想到一个主意在关东煮(一种将肉和蔬菜放在热汤里煮的小吃,很受消费者欢迎)的容器顶端安上一个塑料盖子来防尘,现在所有便利店的关东煮都开始使用这种方法了。”

商品花样品种和便利服务方面的竞争也非常激烈。台湾7-11便利店去年宣布销售用户定制的宽屏电视后,全家便利店随后也很快推出了自己的类似产品。

Hi-Life行政经理Chao称,该公司也在调查推出电视机销售的可行性。

虽然台湾的便利店变得越来越方便,但这一方面也是有限度的。

Chao说:“我们曾经推出过店内现场制作早餐三明治,但后来不得不停止了这个产品,因为顾客非常喜欢我们的三明治,排队购买的队伍特别长,这样一来便利店就不便利了。”

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