Is Starbucks in China Good or a Threat to Culture?
Is Starbucks in China good?
Starbucks has been brewing good, if not the finest coffee, in the world since 1971. Thanks to its growth and popularity, Starbucks has expanded to the edges of continents, especially in the West. Countless branches and franchises are popping up in different countries throughout the world, and China is now a major part of that.
Starbucks branches in China have the best and finest coffees and brews, but they also provide the best service. Although China is traditionally a tea-drinking society, that did not stop Starbucks from making an impact and influencing Chinese culture. But the question is: is Starbucks in China good?
What kind of impact did Starbucks make in China?
For a tea-loving community, it wasn’t easy for Chinese people to embrace the idea of coffee drinking mainly because it was not part of their culture. Cultural values are very important to all Chinese people. This does not hold some people back. Starbucks saw an opportunity to expand its business, and formed partnerships with Chinese business people and investors in order to expand its offshore business. However, it was not easy to attract customers who have had their taste buds locked into tea (and more tea).
In 2007, a Starbucks outlet in the Forbidden City was forced to close down. Early on then, Starbucks in China experienced problems with customer numbers and unfavorable profits. Initially, the impact Starbucks made on China was hardly noticed.
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How did Starbucks manage to hold fast in China?
In order to keep the business afloat in China, business analysts and strategists tried different approaches to getting people to try their products and services. Strategies like free-tastings and buy-one, get-one cards are accepted forms of promotions, as are extensive TV commercials and flyers. But no. The most effective strategy for gaining more customers was to incorporate Chinese culture into the structure and design of Starbucks outlets. It paid off. Starbucks in China managed to attract customers by creating a particular atmosphere in their outlets: serene and quiet, a place where you can feel relaxed with your friends and family—without compromising the quality of their product. So Starbucks managed to create an environment that is very China-like but, instead of tea, customers got coffee in their cups.
Did Starbucks succeed in China?
Yes, Starbucks did succeed and the figures make that clear. If you look at Starbucks in China, you will see they started doing business in January 1999 at China’s World Trade Building in Beijing. Now, the company has more than 2,100 stores in 14 states and 100 cities in China. It still has its sights on more expansion and will be opening more branches throughout the republic.
As of now, Starbucks China locations by state include: around 100 stores in Beijing alone; 160 stores in Shanghai; 100 stores in Guangdong; and the rest scattered in other states and regions of Hunan, Chongqing, Jiangsu, Liaoning, Sichuan, Tianjin, Shaanxi, Hubei, Zhejiang and Shandong. In January 2016, Starbucks announced it will be opening 500 new stores in China every year for the next five years . The latest tally of the number of stores will have to be updated then.
So, is Starbucks in China good or not?
The answer to this question really depends on your point of view and value system. Culture-wise, it may not be appealing because it challenged China’s long and established history of traditional tea-shops. But in terms of economics, it has contributed to the growth and progress of China’s industry especially in the business sectors. In China, the outlets appeal to the new middle class as they are a place to be seen – rarely are coffees taken away.
Starbucks partnerships have also committed to helping others through their ‘Starbucks Experience Campaign’ which promises to serve more than just a cup of premium coffee to consumers around China. Aside from specific programs that promote social responsibility, they also created a three-million dollar non-profit program dedicated to training young leaders in building a more responsible and socially-oriented environment.
Change is an inevitable process as the world progresses every single day. Whether it’s an ideal, a business, or a program, it is the ability to adapt that makes people and nations continue to move forward. China can still have its tea and drink it; the option of coffee is a bonus perhaps.