Department Store Magic
For most of the 20th century Smithson's was one of Britain's most successful department stores, but by the mid-1990s, it had become dull. Still profitable, thanks largely to a series of successful advertising campaigns, but decidedly boring. The famous were careful not to be seen there, and its sales staff didn't seem to have changed since the store opened in 1908. Worst of all, its customers were buying fewer and fewer of its own-brand products,the major part of its business, and showing a preference for more fashionable brands.
But now all this has changed, thanks to Rowena Baker, who became Smithson's first woman Chief Executive three years ago. Since then, while most major retailers in Britain have been losing money, Smithson's profits have been rising steadily. When Baker started, a lot of improvements had just been made to the building, without having any effect on sales, and she took the bold decision to invite one of Europe's most exciting interior designers to develop the fashion area, the heart of the store. This very quickly led to rising sales, even before the goods on display were changed. And as sales grew, so did profits.
Baker had ambitious plans for the store from the start. 'We're playing a big game, to prove we're up there with the leaders in our sector, and we have to make sure people get that message. Smithson's had fallen behind the competition. It provided a traditional service targeted at middle-aged, middle-income customers, who'd been shopping there for years, and the customer base was gradually contracting. Our idea is to sell such an exciting variety of goods that everyone will want to come in, whether they plan to spend a little or a lot.' Baker's vision for the store is clear, but achieving it is far from simple. At first, many employees resisted her improvements because they just wouldn't be persuaded that there was anything wrong with the way they'd always done things, even if they accepted that the store had to overtake its competitors. It took many long meetings, involving the entire workforce, to win their support. It helped when they realised that Baker was a very different kind of manager from the ones they had known.
Baker's staff policies contained more surprises. The uniform that had hardly changed since day one has now disappeared. Moreover, teenagers now get young shop assistants, and staff in the sports departments are themselves sports fans in trainers. As Baker explains, 'How can you sell jeans if you're wearing a black suit? Smithson's has a new identity, and this needs to be made clear to the customers.' She's also given every sales assistant responsibility for ensuring customer satisfaction, even if it means occasionally breaking company rules in the hope that this will help company profits.
Rowena Baker is proving successful, but the City's big investors haven't been persuaded. According to retail analyst, John Matthews, 'Money had already been invested in refurbishment of the store and in fact that led to the boost in sales. She took the credit, but hadn't done anything to achieve it. And in my view the company's shareholders are not convinced. The fact is that unless she opens several more stores pretty soon, Smithson's profits will start to fall because turnover at the existing store will inevitably start to decline.'
13 According to the writer, in the mid-1990s Smithson's department store
A was making a loss.
B had a problem keeping staff.
C was unhappy with its advertising agency.
D mostly sold goods under the Smithson's name.
14 According to the writer, Smithson's profits started rising three years ago because of
A an improvement in the retailing sector.
B the previous work done on the store.
C Rowena Baker's choice of designer.
D a change in the products on sale.
15 According to Rowena Baker, one problem which Smithson's faced when she joined was that
A the number of people using the store was falling slowly.
B its competitors offered a more specialised range of products.
C the store's prices were set at the wrong level.
D customers were unhappy with the service provided.
16 According to the writer, many staff opposed Baker's plans because
A they were unwilling to change their way of working.
B they disagreed with her goals for the store.
C they felt they were not consulted enough about the changes.
D they were unhappy with her style of management.
17 Baker has changed staff policies because she believes that
A the corporate image can be improved through staff uniforms.
B the previous rules were not fair to customers.
C customers should be able to identify with the staff serving them.
D employees should share in company profits.
18 What problem does John Matthews think Smithson's is facing?
A More money needs to be invested in the present store.
B The company's profits will only continue to rise if it expands.
C The refurbishment of the store is proving unpopular with customers.
D Smithson's shareholders expect a quick return on their investments.
《Department store magic》，字面上是百货公司的魔力。讲的是英国的一个百货公司如何摆脱困境。第一段是点明公司所遭遇的困境，接着第二段讲一个女CEO上台开始转变局面，第三段和第四段具体讲这位女CEO的应对措施，最后一段总结：革命尚未成功，同志仍需努力。
13题，问在90年代中期这个百货公司的情况是什么样的。答案是第一段的最后一句：its customers were buying fewer and fewer of its own-brand products, the major part of its business, and showing a preference for more fashionable brands.这个题目的答案有相当的迷惑性。整个句子都是在讲客户购买的越来越少，偏好更多的时尚品牌。所以很容易误选A，但实际上这里并没有说亏损。关键是这个地方：its own-brand products, the major part of its business。自由品牌仍然是公司业务的主要部分。所以应该选D：主要销售Smithson名下的产品。Under the Smithson’s name也就是its own brand products。
14题，问Smithson的利润从三年前开始增长，原因是什么。答案是第二段的这么一句：she took the bold decision to invite one of Europe's most exciting interior designers to develop the fashion area她做出了一个大胆的决定，邀请了欧洲最刺激的室内设计师来开发时尚领域。后面紧接着就说This very quickly led to rising sales，所以答案选C：Rowena Baker的设计师选择。
15题，问当Rowena Baker加入时公司面临的一个问题是什么。这题的关键是要理解一个句子中一个词的含义：It provided a traditional service targeted at middle-aged, middle-income customers, who'd been shopping there for years, and the customer base was gradually contracting.。它提供的传统服务目标人群是中年中等收入者，这些人已经在那购物多年。并且客户基数逐渐减少。Contracting:缩小，收缩的意思。所以答案选A。
16题，问很多员工反对Baker计划的原因是什么。答案是这么一句：many employees resisted her improvements because they just wouldn't be persuaded that there was anything wrong with the way they'd always done things。不愿意被说服他们以前做事情的方式有什么问题。意思也就是不愿意改变他们工作的方式。选A。
17题，问Baker改变员工政策的原因是什么。答案在第四段，Baker的原话：How can you sell jeans if you're wearing a black suit? Smithson's has a new identity, and this needs to be made clear to the customers。你怎么能穿着黑西服卖牛仔?Smithson有一个新的身份，这些必须对客户很明确。也就是C选项说的“客户必须能辨别出服务他们的员工”，A不对，没有提到改善公司形象，B和C在原文没有提到。
18题，问John认为Smithson面临的问题是什么。答案是最后一段的最后一句：The fact is that unless she opens several more stores pretty soon, Smithson's profits will start to fall because turnover at the existing store will inevitably start to decline.事实上除非她尽快的开更多的店，Smithson的利润将会减少因为现有商店的营业额将不可避免的开始下降。也就是B所说的除非扩张，公司的利润才会继续增长。