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The best time for Chinese daigou has gone

chinese daigou

Pity the Chinese personal shopper. Life used to be easy for the daigou: women, usually young, who travelled the world to bring back foreign bargains for the handbag-hungry masses back home.

真为"代购"们惋惜。对于"代购"们而言,生活曾经相当安逸:她们通常是年轻的女性,行走全球各地为众多手袋追捧者把外国的便宜货带回国。

They'd trawl for Guccis by day, and feed off the fat margins at night as luxury goods were much cheaper in European capitals than in China, where duties, taxes and the laws of supply and demand led to inflated Pradas and Louis Vuittons. Buy high, sell higher — but not quite so high as in the luxury mall back home: that was the daigoubusiness model. Call it handbag arbitrage.

她们白天网罗古驰(Gucci)等奢侈品,到了晚上就依靠丰厚的利润挥霍。因为欧洲大城市的奢侈品价格远远低于中国,中国的关税、各种其他税以及供需法则推高了普拉达(Prada)和路易威登(LV)等奢侈品的价格。以高价买进、再以更高价卖出——但价格还是低于中国国内的豪华购物中心:这曾经是代购的业务模式。让我们把这称作手袋套利吧。

The wise daigou didn't give up her day job since what she was doing wasn't strictly legal; but at the very least she got the odd free trip to Paris out of it. It could never last and it hasn't. Beijing has tweaked taxes, some luxury brands have tweaked prices, and these days people are handling their own daigou needs. With 120m Chinese travelling overseas last year, there are plenty who can arbitrage their own face creams, stilettos and whatnot. They've become their own personal shoppers.

聪明的代购不会放弃日常工作,因为从严格意义上来说代购并不合法;但至少,代购的利润足够免费游一趟巴黎了。这种模式绝不可能持久,也确实没有持久。中国调整了税率,一些奢侈品品牌也调整了价格,而且最近,人们正依靠自己满足代购需求。去年,中国出境游人次达到1.2亿,因此很多人可以自己从国外购买面霜、高跟鞋等等。他们已变成自己的私人买手。

The daigou business for luxury goods has come off the boil, according to Bain & Co's 2015 China Luxury Market Study, which estimated that the business was down by more than a third year on year — from Rmb55bn ($8.5bn) to Rmb75bn ($11.5bn) in 2014, to between Rmb34bn and Rmb50bn last year. It's not a case of China cutting its coat according to the cloth of its slowing growth, though: mainlanders are still spending plenty on luxury goods. They are just doing more of their own bargain-hunting — and daigouare facing tighter customs scrutiny. The weaker renminbi won't have helped.

贝恩咨询《2015年中国奢侈品市场研究》称,奢侈品代购行业已开始滑坡。该研究估计,该行业规模已同比缩水逾三分之一,从2014年的550亿元人民币至750亿元人民币,降至去年的340亿元人民币至500亿元人民币。这并非是中国人因为经济增速放缓而减少支出。中国内地人仍在大手笔购买奢侈品。他们只是更多地在自己搜罗便宜货,而代购正面临更严格的海关审查。人民币贬值也没有在其中发挥作用。

So these are hard times for the average daigou diva. But they're a clever lot and they've figured out how to give today's Chinese market what it really wants from a personal shopper: increasingly it is sanitary towels, gummy vitamins and "waterproof baby belly button bandages". It must take a lot of tampon arbitrage to make a viable business model.

因此对于普通代购们而言,现在处于艰难时期。但她们很聪明,已经弄明白如何向当今的中国市场提供它真正希望私人买手提供的东西:越来越多的代购商品变成卫生巾、维生素软糖以及"婴儿防水护脐贴"。代购的数量必须很大才能形成盈利的商业模式。

And it can't be nearly so much fun either: scouting for deals at Galeries Lafayette sounds a lot more appealing than picking through the unmentionables bin at the local discount pharmacy.

代购也不再像过去那样有趣:在老佛爷百货扫货,听上去可比在当地折扣药店的个人护理品货架上选购商品有意思多了。

Catherine is a part-time Chinese daigou living in Germany who entered the business six months ago. "I thought it was too late, the best days of daigou were over," she tells the Financial Times. But she's found plenty of demand for baby products and even snacks. "Knoppers wafers from Germany, Japanese 'raw' chocolate and Russian cake — shoppers love them," she says.

凯瑟琳(Catherine)是一个生活在德国的兼职中国代购,6个月前加入这行。她告诉英国《金融时报》:"我认为我入行太晚了,代购最好的日子已经过去。"但她发现,国内对婴儿用品和零食的需求很大。她说:"德国的Knoppers威化饼干、日本'生'巧克力以及俄罗斯蛋糕,购物者喜欢它们。"

She buys overseas and ships to China, factoring postage and her profit into the price. "I still have confidence in the business because there are so many fakes in China," she says. The cheapest thing Catherine has sold in this way is infant umbilical bandages, she says; another personal shopper says her cheapest item is "Japanese double eyelid tape".

她在海外购买,然后运到中国,她把邮寄费用和利润都计入售价。她表示:"我仍对这个行业充满信心,因为在中国假货很多。"凯瑟琳说,她通过这种方式卖过的最便宜的商品是婴儿护脐贴;另一位私人买手说,她卖过的最便宜的代购商品是"日本双眼皮贴"。

"At first I just wanted to earn some pocket money," Catherine explains, "but then my appetite for building a career was aroused." That was before she realised how much work it is, and how low the profits are, she says. She offers selling baby formula milk, a popular product for daigou, as an example.

"起初,我只是想赚些零用钱,"凯瑟琳解释称,"但后来我萌生了把它当成职业的想法。"她说,之后她才意识到工作量有多大以及利润有多低。她以销售婴幼儿配方奶粉为例,这是受到普遍欢迎的代购产品。

"Six cans of formula weigh 4.8kg [the maximum that customs allows per package]. I get Rmb198 for selling one can of formula but I can spend more than an hour on the packaging. Sometimes supermarkets limit formula sales to only one can per purchase . . . and sometimes none is available. Considering the time involved and the cost, the profit is low. I don't plan to daigou formula in the future."

"6罐配方奶粉重4.8公斤(这是中国海关规定的每件包裹可携带奶粉的最大数量)。我每罐奶粉卖198元人民币,但我可能要花一个多小时包装。有时,超市会限制配方奶粉的购买数量,每次只能买一罐……有时还会缺货。考虑到时间和成本,利润很低。将来我不打算代购配方奶粉。"

So Chinese personal shopping has come down in the world, as a profession. Arbitrage opportunities for double eyelid tape notwithstanding, it's a tough world out there in these days of daigou slowdown.

因此作为一个职业,全球的中国代购量已缩减。尽管双眼皮贴仍有套利机会,但在最近代购业下滑的日子里,代购很难做。

But never underestimate the ability of the average mainlander to create a business opportunity, where none existed beforehand. Today, tampons; tomorrow, the world.

不过,永远不要低估普通中国内地人在前无古人的领域创造商机的能力。

2016-06-23

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