Are you planning a store expansion strategy? Want to corner your market? This is the tale of how Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ guru, did quite literally that, en route to achieving his modest target of 40,000 outlets (scarily, the company claims it’s still on track to hit that).
The former housewares salesman, having bought up the fledgling chain in the late 1980s, had his eureka moment in 1991 when he opened a second Starbucks, yards away from an existing store. Reasoning that he could draw in thousands more customers simply by making his store a few steps more convenient, he opened one on the opposite corner of a busy intersection in Vancouver. An outlandish idea for what was then still considered a niche product – premium bean coffee sold at a price – Schultz’s gamble paid off, with queues around the block for both outlets. It’s a ploy that’s proven spectacularly successful: today there’s even a Starbucks in Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba.
Clark traces the world’s revived obsession with coffee culture, from its early roots in Ethiopian culture, right through to the sharp decline in coffee consumption by the 1960s, as the big brands cheapened their product with poor-quality beans, to coffee’s slow revival at the hands of a few passionate bean enthusiasts from the 1970s.
But if you thought café culture in the UK was something new, think again. In 1652, London had just one coffee house, but by 1700, it had more than 2,000. It was quickly superseded by tea, partly due to the poor coffee quality, with commentators of the day branding it “essence of old shoes”, with a flavour reminiscent of “dog or cat’s turd”.