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施坦威的中国野心(下):高端乐器的销售困局

更新时间:2016-7-10 8:30:37 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Steinway’s Grand Piano Ambitions in China
施坦威的中国野心(下):高端乐器的销售困局

Instruments as Investments

是乐器,也是投资

His father was skeptical. His mother worried he would drive the family business into turmoil.

他的父亲表示怀疑。他的母亲担心他会把家族生意搞得一团糟。

But Nick Liu, a 26-year-old heir to a large musical instrument company in eastern China, was determined. He would open a store focused exclusively on selling the brand of pianos he had worshiped during his days as a budding concert pianist.

不过,26岁的刘骋心意已决。他是中国东部一家大型乐器行的继承人。他想开一家店,专门销售他作为音乐会钢琴演奏者初露头角时最崇拜的钢琴品牌。

Mr. Liu’s father had tried selling Steinway pianos a decade earlier with limited success. The concept of a high-end instrument is unfamiliar in a country where the average income for a middle-income family is about $12,000, according to a report last year by Goldman Sachs. Most people won’t spend more than $1,000 on a piano.

十年前,刘的父亲曾尝试销售施坦威钢琴,不太成功。据高盛公司(Goldman Sachs)去年的一份报告,中国中等收入家庭的年均收入约为1.2万美元,高端乐器的概念在中国并不为人们所熟悉。大部分人不会购买超过1000美元的钢琴。

Mr. Liu, who studied piano and finance at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, sensed an opportunity. He believed that China’s nouveaux riches were in the market for new symbols of wealth. “I knew rich people wanted something more subtle to show their taste and sophistication,” he said.

刘曾在北卡罗来纳州的韦克福里斯特大学(Wake Forest University)学习钢琴和金融。他看到了商机。他认为,中国的暴发户正在市场上寻找新的财富象征。“我知道有钱人想要一些更精致的东西来展示自己的品味和修养,”他说。

Shortly after New Year’s Day last year, in a sleepy business complex in Ningbo that housed a fine-wine store and an art gallery, Mr. Liu opened a Steinway dealership, the latest addition to his family’s business empire, Tianmu Music.

去年新年之后不久,刘在宁波一个安静的商业综合楼里开设了一家施坦威专营店,这是他的家族企业天目琴行的最新分支。这个商业楼里还有一家高档红酒店和一个画廊。

Mr. Liu found the space with the help of Wang Zhaochun, a technology executive and one of Steinway’s most enthusiastic Chinese customers, who owned the building.

刘在王兆春的帮助下找到了这个空间。王是一家技术公司的总裁,是施坦威最热心的中国顾客之一,也是这座商业楼的所有者。

Mr. Wang was an avid fan of sports cars and watches. But his latest obsession was a red Steinway concert grand piano valued at more than $300,000, which he showed off to friends in a private salon decorated with fur rugs and bottles of Royal Salute whisky on the building’s ninth floor.

王是跑车和手表的狂热爱好者。不过他最近痴迷的是一架红色施坦威音乐会三角钢琴,价值超过30万美元。他在这座商业楼九层的一个私人会客厅里向朋友们炫耀这架钢琴,会客厅里装饰着皮毛小地毯和一瓶瓶皇家礼炮威士忌(Royal Salute)。

“I wanted to buy something special,” Mr. Wang said. “It’s just like a Rolls-Royce.”

“我想买点特别的东西,”王说,“它就像劳斯莱斯。”

In his store on the ground floor, Mr. Liu arranged dozens of pianos, polishing them with cloths made of chicken skin to make each look as seductive as possible. He turned an empty wall into a timeline of Steinway history, beginning with a portrait of Henry E. Steinway, the company’s founder, in a top hat and holding a cane. He created a mock living room, complete with Steinway-branded teacups and tissue boxes, to help customers visualize high-end pianos in their own homes.

刘在底层的店里布置了几十架钢琴,用鸡皮做成的布擦拭它们,让每架钢琴尽可能看起来充满诱惑力。他在一面空白的墙上展示施坦威大事记,开头是公司创始人亨利·E·施坦威(Henry E. Steinway)的肖像,他戴着大礼帽,拿着手杖。他还设计了一个模拟客厅,布置着施坦威品牌的茶杯和纸巾盒,帮助顾客想像自己家里有一架高端钢琴的样子。

Yet Mr. Liu struggled to make a sale. “It was hell,” he said. “No customers, just three employees in the store and me.”

不过,刘的销售情况不佳。“很糟糕,”他说,“没有顾客,店里只有三名员工和我。”

His sales team, accustomed to using a pushy manner to peddle far cheaper products, had difficulty connecting with elite customers. Mr. Liu, a classically trained pianist, felt more comfortable speaking about the musical aspects of the instruments than investment value.

他的销售团队习惯于采用纠缠不休的方式兜售便宜得多的产品,很难与高端顾客建立联系。刘是一位受过正规训练的钢琴演奏者,他更喜欢谈论乐器的音乐价值而非投资价值。

Selling a Steinway in China is a particularly trying task. Unlike sports cars or watches, pianos are not easy to show off. Many older people in China never developed a talent for playing the piano. The instrument was shunned during the Cultural Revolution, and widespread poverty in the ensuing decades made it inaccessible to many Chinese families.

在中国销售施坦威尤为困难。不像跑车或手表,钢琴不好炫耀。很多年龄稍长的中国人从未开发过弹钢琴的天赋。“文革”期间,人们对这种乐器避而远之,在之后的数十年里,中国家庭普遍贫穷,买不起钢琴。

Steinway has depended on salesmen in more than 25 cities to educate and excite its customers. The company has instructed them to play up the potential return on investment of a Steinway — a message that resonates strongly with frugal Chinese families — and to speak at length about the company’s history.

施坦威依靠在超过25个城市的销售人员教育和激励顾客。公司指导销售员强调购买施坦威钢琴的潜在投资回报——这一点在节俭的中国家庭中很能引起共鸣——并详细讲述该公司的历史。

Mr. Liu thought back to his days as an intern in China selling English lessons to working-class families. He remembered the time he had sold more than $6,000 worth of lessons to a woman who made only $460 a month.

刘回想起自己在中国当实习生时向工薪家庭推销英语课程的情形。他记得,有一次,他把价值6000多美元的课程推销给一个月薪仅为460美元的女人。

“That was an achievement,” he said. “It was like ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’ You have to figure out their motivations and their pressure point.”

“那是一种成就,”他说,“就像《华尔街之狼》(The Wolf of Wall Street)。你必须找出他们的动力和压力点。”

Mr. Liu invited families in for concerts. He began courting music teachers and local performers. He recruited a Bentley salesman to help market the pianos to affluent customers.

刘邀请家庭观看音乐会。他开始讨好音乐教师和当地演奏者。他聘请了一名宾利(Bentley)销售员,帮助向富有顾客推广钢琴。

“We had to convince them that pianos should be a noble good, not something people buy from the grocery store,” he said.

“我们必须说服他们,钢琴是一种高贵的东西,不是从杂货店买的那种东西,”他说。

By March, Mr. Liu had made his first sale, and he was beginning to learn to accommodate the peculiar requests of his clients. A customer called one morning to say she wanted to buy a grand piano costing more than $20,000. But there was a catch: She demanded that it be delivered at 8 p.m. that same day, on the advice of her spiritual master, who had said that time would accord with the laws of feng shui.

3月,刘售出了第一架钢琴,并开始学着适应客户的特殊要求。一天早上,一名客户打电话说她想买一架钢琴价格超过2万美元的钢琴。但有个难题:按照她找的大师的建议,她要求在当天晚上8点送到,在那个时间入户有利于风水。

Mr. Liu scrambled to make it happen.

刘竭尽全力满足了这个要求。

By December, Mr. Liu had sold 50 pianos at his store in Ningbo. In his office, he kept a supply of single-malt whiskey he sometimes used to celebrate milestones. At the end of his first year, it had begun to run low.

到12月,刘在宁波的店面已经卖出50架钢琴。在他的办公室里常备单一麦芽威士忌,有时被用来庆祝达到某个销售里程碑。在第一年年底,威士忌已经所剩不多。

‘A Fighting Hero’

“战斗英雄”

In a sleek office tower in the heart of Beijing’s high-tech hub, 60 engineers and 20 musicians work day and night to perfect a product they hope will one day compete with traditional instruments from makers like Steinway.

在北京的高科技中心的一座豪华写字楼里,60名工程师和20名乐师日以继夜地完善一种产品,他们希望有一天它能与施坦威这种传统乐器制造商的产品竞争。

The device is a smart piano known as the One, and it uses synchronized lights and video games to show children how to play the piano — no teacher required. With a compact design and a price starting around $600, it has proved to be popular among Chinese parents; the company sold 85,000 units in two years.

这是一种智能钢琴,名为the One。它使用跟灯模式和电子游戏来向孩子们展示如何弹钢琴——不需要老师。The One外形小巧,起价600美元,事实证明,它受到了中国家长的青睐,两年就销售了逾8.5万架钢琴。

Founded by an engineer with no background in music, the company that produces the One has not been shy about its ambitions. “Witness the rebirth of the classical piano,” reads one advertisement.

The One是由一位没有音乐背景的工程师创办的,这个名为小叶子科技的公司的雄心在一个广告中一览无余:见证古典钢琴的重生。

There are now some 300,000 digital pianos in China, about the same number as acoustic pianos. Some forecasts say the total could reach one million within five years.

现在中国消费者拥有30万架数字钢琴,与声学钢琴的数目大抵相同。一些人预测说,五年内这个数字将达到100万架。

For generations, Steinway has thrived by ignoring competitors claiming to have reinvented the piano. But the surging popularity of digital pianos like the One, as well as concerns that a slowing Chinese economy could hurt demand, have prompted the company to reconsider.

几十年来,施坦威无视那些自称重新创造了钢琴的竞争对手,一直发展得有声有色。但随着the One这种数字钢琴的兴起,以及担心中国经济放缓可能减缓需求,该公司已经开始重新考虑这个问题。

In Beijing this month, Steinway unveiled a product that executives heralded as one of the most significant innovations in the company’s 163-year history: Spirio, an acoustic piano equipped with a digital brain so that it can play without human intervention.

施坦威本月在北京推出了一个产品,被高管们誉为该公司163年历史上最重要的创新之一:配备了数字大脑的声学钢琴Spirio,它可以播放音乐,完全无需人工干预。

Spirio, which starts at about $147,000 in China, traces its roots to a generation of player pianos that filled homes across America in the early 1900s, the golden age of pianos. It was a time when jazz and ragtime flew off the keys, and Steinway was producing more than 6,000 pianos a year, triple what it makes today.

在中国起价约为14.7万美元的Spirio,起源可追溯至上世纪初全美几乎一户一台的那一代自动钢琴。那是钢琴的黄金时代,琴键间流淌着爵士乐和雷格泰姆音乐,施坦威一年生产的钢琴超过6000架,是现在的三倍。

Steinway sees China as the best shot at rekindling the fervor of that era. Indeed, for two months last year, the company sold more grand pianos in China than in the United States.

施坦威认为中国最有可能重新点燃那个时代对钢琴的热情。的确,在去年的两个月里,该公司在中国售出的三角钢琴超过了美国的销量。

In a somewhat frustrating sign of the company’s growing popularity in China, imitators have began cropping up, including small piano shops that have repurposed Steinway’s lyre logo. One company even usurped the brand name to sell water heaters for showers with built-in televisions.

一个有些让人心烦的迹象表明了公司在中国的受欢迎程度:模仿者开始涌现了,包括将施坦威的里尔琴标志用于其他目的的小型琴行。一家公司甚至用该商标销售安装了内嵌电视的淋浴热水器。

But Steinway executives face a persistent worry. No matter how much money the company spends promoting its craftsmanship, no matter how many performers endorse its pianos, China’s middle class might ultimately be unwilling to make the leap to high-end instruments.

但施坦威的高管面临一个由来已久的担忧。不管该公司花多少钱宣传自己的工艺,也不管有多少演奏者称赞他们的钢琴,中国的中产阶级最终可能还是不愿一跃选择高端乐器。

“When you rule the piano world for 160 years, you can get complacent,” said Mr. Husmann, the company executive. “It can lead to a mentality of, ‘Everyone needs a Steinway anyway.’ Steinway has to be a fighting hero — we have to fight every day for our business.”

“统领钢琴界160年,可能会让人沾沾自喜,” 该公司首席执行官胡斯曼说。“可能会让人产生一种‘反正每个人会买一台施坦威’的心理。施坦威必须成为一名战斗英雄,我们每天都必须为了生意而战斗。”

Du Ruizhe, a 15-year-old piano student in Beijing, was the model of a next-generation Steinway customer. She grew up revering the Steinway name, associating it with great pianists like Arthur Rubinstein. She practiced five hours a day — six on weekends — and was ecstatic when she learned she had qualified for the Steinway piano competition in Ningbo.

15岁的杜睿哲(音)是北京一名学习钢琴的学生。她是典型的下一代施坦威用家。她在对施坦威这个品牌的崇拜中长大,将其等同于像阿图尔·鲁宾斯坦(Arthur Rubinstein)那样的伟大钢琴家。她每天练五个小时琴——周末六个小时。得知有资格参加在宁波举行的施坦威钢琴比赛时,她欣喜若狂。

But at home, she played on a grand piano made by Kawai, a low-cost Japanese maker. Steinway pianos, she said, were simply too expensive.

但在家里,她弹的是一架出自日本廉价钢琴生产商河合(Kawai)的三角钢琴。她说施坦威的钢琴实在太贵了。

“It feels like Steinway is getting famous,” said the teenager, who plans to become a piano teacher. “But in many people’s eyes it’s still a luxury, and until that changes, it’s not like we’ll be rushing to get it.”

“感觉施坦威越来越有名了,”打算当一名钢琴老师的杜睿哲说。“但在很多人眼里,它依然是一种奢侈品,除非这种看法发生改变,否则我们不会急着去买。”

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