The Globalization of Starbucks
Thirty years ago, Starbucks was a single store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market selling premium-roasted coffee. Today it is a global roaster and retailer of coffee with some 17,000 stores, 40% of which are in 50 countries outside the United States. Starbucks set out on its current course in the 1980s when the company’s director of marketing, Howard Schultz, came back from a trip to Italy enchanted with the Italian coffeehouse experience. Schultz, who later became CEO, persuaded the company’s owners to experiment with the coffeehouse format – and the Starbucks experience was born. The strategy was to sell the company’s own premium-roasted coffee and freshly brewed espresso-style coffee beverages, along with a variety of pastries, coffee accessories, teas, and other products, in a tastefully designed coffeehouse setting. From the outset, the company focused on selling a “third place” experience, rather than just the coffee. The formula led to spectacular success in the US, where Starbucks went from obscurity to one of the best-known brands in the country with over 137,000 employees and $10.7 billion in annual revenues. Thanks to Starbucks, coffee stores became places for relaxation, chatting with friends, reading the newspaper, holding business meetings, or (more recently) browsing the Web.
In 1995, with 700 stores across the US, Starbucks began exploring foreign opportunities. The first target market was Japan. The company established a joint venture with a local retailer, Sazaby Inc. Each company held a 50% stake in the venture, Starbucks Coffee of Japan. Starbucks initially invested $10 million in this venture, its first foreign direct investment. The Starbucks format was then licensed to the venture, which was charged with taking over responsibility for growing Starbucks’ presence in Japan.
To make sure the Japanese operations replicated the “Starbucks experience” in North America, Starbucks transferred some...
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