Sunday, February 27, 2011

On Starbucks

Mmmmmm....
I don't care how commercialized, expensive-ized, sugarized, mass-produced-ized, non-eco-friendly-ized, not-as-good-coffee-as-non-chain-coffee-shops-ized Starbucks may be. There is still very few things that top lounging in a Starbucks a lazy Sunday afternoon, sipping coffee, listening to music, reading/writing/chatting, relaxing. And the best part - you can do this in any Starbucks, anywhere in the world. The beauty of mass production, I guess.

We don't have Starbucks in Norway. It's a hopeless market. Oslo already has a large number of coffee shops - many of them serving high quality coffee, for more affordable prices than what Starbucks would land on if the price regime follows that of other countries. Norwegians are used to paying much for their coffee, but then they are also used to getting quality coffee back. As it is, there is a question whether Starbucks is needed, wanted or even possible in Norway. We have long coffee traditions; we're used to thinking we do certain things best at home (or at least "in Europe"); and there is a latent skepticism towards consumerism(/Americanism?) that often surfaces in Norwegians when faced with the potential introduction of new products. We don't have KFC or Dunkin' Donuts either.

And yet. The fact that we have a lot of money and drink a lot of coffee in Norway, is bound to make us interesting for the American chain. Thus they are looking into the Norwegian market, aiming at establishing some customer recognition by selling their pre-produced iced lattes and such in stores and kiosks. Gradually, they are going to open stores, first at airports, and then eventually (possibly) in Oslo. Or so is the strategy as of today (as far as I know. I should probably mention that I don't have a direct line to the people in charge, and thus cannot say for sure whether this is the actual strategy. But this is the strategy our newspapers report, and that is good enough for me).

One major risk, in addition to the competition and the tough market, is that the Starbucks business model might be more difficult to promote in Norway than elsewhere. Because of the many established coffee houses in Norway, where the "sit-ins" are far more established, it is likely that Starbucks will have better chances of competing with the more recent take-away market (which today largely is handled by 7-11 and the likes of it, especially outside of the major cities). Usually Starbucks coffee shops have many employees, which allows for a speedy making of the coffee suitable for the take-away segment of the customers. In Norway, however, where salary costs are quite high, it is unlikely that Starbucks will be willing or able to have as many workers on the same shift. Thus, they risk slowing down the coffee making process, which in turn will make Starbucks a less attractive alternative for the take-awayers.

From one of the many Facebook groups...
(guess which side)
I don't envy whomever is in charge of the "Norway probe". It will be a tough job. They don't enter entirely unsupported, though. There are a large number of Facebook groups called "We want Starbucks in Norway" or something similar, the largest of which have more than 25,000 members. I am one of them. I am also a member of at least two groups against establishing Starbucks in Norway. This does not only reflect my confusions with regards to the chain; I think it reflects many Norwegians' opinion (then again - there are also a couple of "I really don't care if Starbucks establishes in Norway"-groups, which perhaps is the most accurate of all).

In the end, however, if and when Starbucks does open a store in Oslo, I think it most likely will be a success during its first week, and then it is completely in the blue. Will people stay true to their old habits and pick the coffee they think is the best when they have time (aka not Starbucks), and the coffee they think is the fastest when they don't (aka not Starbucks, again)? Or will they be willing to accept the Starbucks concept of vanilla/cinnamon/caramel/lazy-Sunday-heaven, occasionally transformed into semi-fast take-away (since there is only financial justification for one person at work per shift)?

Time will show. I have my doubts, though. I'm not convinced Starbucks will conquer Norway.

Thus, don't judge me. If I want to spend my non-Norway Sundays in Starbucks, I feel entitled to do so. Whether I'm in Japan, the United States, or any of the other 55 countries where the it's currently located. I might not feel the same way if and when I get the chance in Norway.



~~~~~~~~~~~~

And yes - I am aware of the irony of posting this on the same week as I spoke so grandly on fair-trade. That is another issue about coffee and/or Starbucks...

18 comments:

Michelle Gregory said...

glad i'm not the only one who has mixed feelings about big chains. i'm not so much a Starbucks person as i am a Walmart and Amazon.com person.

Georgina Dollface said...

It's funny that you say all this because I went through a bit of anti-Starbucks mea cupla hypocrisy myself. When I was in the UK, I discovered that our fixation with coffee is just not the same over there as it is here. There, it's not uncommon for people to only have instant coffee in their kitchens. Restaurants actually advertise "Filter coffee" just to tell you that it is real coffee, otherwise the assumption would be that it is instant coffee. So finding a Starbucks was a Godsend when we were over there and we were more than willing to pay their ridiculous prices. - G

Chary Johnson said...

I love Starbucks coffee but simply can't afford it on a teacher's salary. I have to resort to buying flavored coffee creamers and adding them to my Bustello coffee at home.

I love those lazy Sunday cafe moments too!

I don't feel too bad about big chains. I would love to see a Walmart here in New York City but this is a big pro-union town, so Walmart may not have a chance.

Mary Vaughn said...

Not a big Starbucks fan.
A student friend of mine used to drink three or four a day and then complain she had no money to fix her car and the electric was getting turned off. Do the math.

The Words Crafter said...

I'm no longer a coffee drinker, but I never got into the over priced craze of Starbucks.

And the big chain corporations drive so many small business owners out of business!

Nicole MacDonald said...

meh to Starbucks - and anyway this was it's something special when you go on holiday somewhere that they do have it *grin*

The Arrival, .99c on Amazon
www.damselinadirtydress.co

Clarissa Draper said...

My husband loves the Starbucks here in Mexico. I'm not such a fan. They are so busy here and I feel like a sardine. However, sometimes I just feel like a light chai latte. No place does it better than Starbucks.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You missed your calling! Starbucks needs to hire you as a market analysist.

Pat Tillett said...

Look for beer and wine to be sold at Starbucks in the future. they are already testing it in some Starbucks locations in Seattle. Apparently they only sell it after 4:00 PM.

Pat Tillett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Golden Eagle said...

I've only been in Starbucks 2 or 3 times--but I didn't really like the impression I got of the place.

sue said...

They haven't gone so well in Melbourne. It was a bigger uphill battle than they anticipated breaking into a well established market. We've got lots of fabulous coffee places catering for a finicky diverse clientele, and they do it well.
Chains serve their purpose when you're overseas. It can be comforting to know what the expectations are and that you can sit, and for example listen to Queen and blog away to your hearts content without raising the ire of a owner operated business. I suspect that's where they get their customers!

Hannah Kincade said...

I just love coffee shops in general. Starbucks, Caribou, The Fine Grind (a local play), it's all the same. I love the little places with mismatched furniture more but still, I can get my coffee and tea and be satisfied pretty much anywhere.

Cold As Heaven said...

I have nothing against Starbucks, and I go there from time to time when I'm out travelling. But we don't need Starbucks in Norway. Ithink we have better alternatives, like Dromedar, my favorite >:)

Cold As Heaven

LL Cool Joe said...

I'm not into coffee anymore, especially after I've given up caffeine, but Starbucks doesn't appeal to me anyway. We have a great many of them in the UK but I never use them.

Deb and Barbara said...

Yup, you took the words right out of my mouth in your first paragraph! Will be interesting to watch what happens in Norway -- I think Starb's likes to take on challenges, win or lose...

Hart Johnson said...

I love seeing your mixed feelings on the matter. I love Starbuck's coffee, though I drink it via the ground beans my office buys. I DO frequent them when I am traveling, though--it is just nice to know where you can reliably get a good cup of coffee (and I think they actually make an effort at finding fair trade sources--at least they used to)

Then again, I identify myself as a Pacific Northwest girl, and Starbucks, like Amazon, hails from Seattle, so even if they are huge, they are also 'local company does well' stories.

Hart Johnson said...

[I put down my foot at microsoft though, another Seattle behemoth--wonder what that is, actually... that one place could spurn so many companies intent on world domination]

*cough*

Related Posts with Thumbnails