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)
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...