Starbucks recently revealed that they’re retooling several stores in the style of an independent coffeehouse. Little changes like serving alcohol, hosting live performances…and removal of all connections with Starbucks.
That’s right, the most successful coffee chain in history is voluntarily unbranding three locations, with more to come if this limited test works.
It’s not as illogical as it sounds: Even if they make the change at several hundred locations, they still have over 16,000 locations, with more than 11,000 in the U.S. alone. Also, the brand has lost some of its prestige, with people at both ends of the cultural spectrum selecting alternative ways to get their coffee. Now that Starbucks is a mega-corporation, trendmakers and their followers are flocking to (authentic) local shops. Meanwhile, fast food chains like Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds are offering coffee and coffee-based drinks that are actually good.
The three locations making the change will adopt the name of their neighborhoods&emdash;the first one, for instance, is now called 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea.
It will be interesting to see if this is successful enough for a country-wide rollout. I can see how it would increase traffic from their core customers and the periphery, maybe even the value-minded consumer will be pulled in if they’re interested by the non-coffee additions. But I don’t think it will attract the consumers who value independent, local shops&emdash;the kinds of shops Starbucks is trying to emulate. It’s still owned by Starbucks after all.
To read more about the change, go here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2009479123_starbucks16.html. There’s some great quotes from local coffehouse owners who had Starbucks researchers invading their stores.