Public Company 1992-
Starbucks Becomes a Public Company
Starbucks' initial public offering (IPO) of common stock in June 1992 turned into one of the most successful IPOs of the year (see Exhibit 3 for the performance of the company's stock price since the IPO). With the capital afforded it by being a public company, Starbucks accelerated the expansion of its store network (see Exhibit 1). Starbucks' success helped specialty coffee products begin to catch on across the United States. Competitors, some imitating the Starbucks model, began to spring up in many locations. The Specialty Coffee Association of America predicted that the number of coffee cafés in the United States would rise from 500 in 1992 to 10,000 by 1999.
The Store Expansion Strategy
In 1992 and 1993 Starbucks developed a three-year geographic expansion strategy that targeted areas which not only had favorable demographic profiles but which also could be serviced and supported by the company's operations infrastructure. For each targeted region, Starbucks selected a large city to serve as a "hub"; teams of professionals were located in hub cities to support the goal of opening 20 or more stores in the hub in the first two years. Once stores blanketed the hub, then additional stores were opened in smaller, surrounding "spoke" areas in the region. To oversee the expansion process, Starbucks created zone vice presidents to direct the development of each region and to implant the Starbucks culture in the newly opened stores. All of the new zone vice presidents Starbucks recruited came with extensive operating and marketing experience in chain-store retailing.
Starbucks' store launches grew steadily more successful. In 1995, new stores generated an average of $700,000 in revenue in their first year, far more than the average of $427,000 in 1990. This was partly due to the growing reputation of the Starbucks brand. In more and more instances, Starbucks' reputation reached new markets even before stores opened. Moreover, existing stores continued to post year-to-year gains in sales (see Exhibit 1).
Starbucks had notable success in identifying top retailing sites for its stores. The company had the best real estate team in the coffee-bar industry and a sophisticated system that enabled it to identify not only the most attractive individual city blocks but also the exact store location that was best. The company's site location track record was so good that as of 1997 it had closed only 2 of the 1,500 sites it had opened.
Real Estate, Store Design, Store Planning, and Construction
Schultz formed a headquarters group to create a store development process based on a six-month opening schedule. Starting in 1991, the company began to create its own in-house team of architects and designers to ensure that each store would convey the right image and character. Stores had to be custom-designed because the company didn't buy real estate and build its own freestanding structures like McDonald's or Wal-Mart did; rather, each space was leased in an existing structure and thus each store differed in size and shape. Most stores ranged in size from 1,000 to 1,500 square feet and were located in office buildings, downtown and suburban retail centers, airport terminals, university campus areas, or busy neighborhood shopping areas convenient to pedestrian foot traffic. Only a select few were in suburban malls. While similar materials and furnishings were used to keep the look consistent and expenses reasonable, no two stores ended up being exactly alike.
In 1994, Starbucks began to experiment with a broader range of store formats. Special seating areas were added to help make Starbucks a place where customers could meet and chat or simply enjoy a peaceful interlude in their day. Grand Cafés with fireplaces, leather chairs, newspapers, couches, and lots of ambience were created to serve as flagship stores in high-traffic, high-visibility locations. The company also experimented with drive-through windows in locations where speed and convenience were important to customers and with kiosks in supermarkets, building lobbies, and other public places.
To better reduce average store-opening costs, which had reached an undesirably high $350,000 in 1995, the company centralized buying, developed standard contracts and fixed fees for certain items, and consolidated work under those contractors who displayed good cost-control practices. The retail operations group outlined exactly the minimum amount of equipment each core store needed, so that standard items could be ordered in volume from vendors at 20 to 30 percent discounts, then delivered just in time to the store site either from company warehouses or the vendor. Modular designs for display cases were developed. And the whole store layout was developed on a computer, with software that allowed the costs to be estimated as the design evolved. All this cut store-opening costs significantly and reduced store development time from 24 to 18 weeks.
A "stores of the future" project team was formed in 1995 to raise Starbucks' store design to a still higher level and come up with the next generation of Starbucks stores. Schultz and Olsen met with the team early on to present their vision for what a Starbucks store should be like"an authentic coffee experience that conveyed the artistry of espresso making, a place to think and imagine, a spot where people could gather and talk over a great cup of coffee, a comforting refuge that provided a sense of community, a third place for people to congregate beyond work or the home, a place that welcomed people and rewarded them for coming, and a layout that could accommodate both fast service and quiet moments." The team researched the art and literature of coffee throughout the ages, studied coffee-growing and coffee-making techniques, and looked at how Starbucks stores had already evolved in terms of design, logos, colors, and mood. The team came up with four store designsone for each of the four stages of coffee making: growing, roasting, brewing, and aromaeach with its own color combinations, lighting scheme, and component materials. Within each of the four basic store templates, Starbucks could vary the materials and details to adapt to different store sizes and settings (downtown buildings, college campuses, neighborhood shopping areas). In late 1996, Starbucks began opening new stores based on one of the four templates. The company also introduced two ministore formats using the same styles and finishes: the brevebar, a store-within-a-store for supermarkets or office-building lobbies, and the doppio, a self-contained 8-square-foot space that could be moved from spot to spot. Management believed the project accomplished three objectives: better store designs, lower store-opening costs (about $315,000 per store on average), and formats that allowed sales in locations Starbucks could otherwise not consider.
For a number of years, Starbucks avoided debt and financed new stores entirely with equity capital. But as the company's profitability improved and its balance sheet strengthened, Schultz's opposition to debt as a legitimate financing vehicle softened. In 1996 the company completed its second debt offering, netting $161 million from the sale of convertible debentures for use in its capital construction program. Exhibit 6, Exhibit 7, and Exhibit 8 present Starbucks' income statement and balance sheet data for recent years.
Starbucks stores offered a choice of regular or decaffeinated coffee beverages, a special "coffee of the day," and a broad selection of Italian-style espresso drinks. In addition, customers could choose from a wide selection of fresh-roasted whole-bean coffees (which could be ground on the premises and carried home in distinctive packages), a selection of fresh pastries and other food items, sodas, juices, teas, and coffee-related hardware and equipment. In 1997, the company introduced its Starbucks Barista home espresso machine featuring a new portafilter system that accommodated both ground coffee and Starbucks' new ready-to-use espresso pods. Power Frappuccinoa version of the company's popular Frappuccino blended beverage, packed with protein, carbohydrates, and vitaminswas tested in several markets during 1997; another promising new product being tested for possible rollout in 1998 was Chai Tea Lattè, a combination of black tea, exotic spices, honey, and milk.
The company's retail sales mix was roughly 61 percent coffee beverages, 15 percent whole-bean coffees, 16 percent food items, and 8 percent coffee-related products and equipment. The product mix in each store varied, depending on the size and location of each outlet. Larger stores carried a greater variety of whole coffee beans, gourmet food items, teas, coffee mugs, coffee grinders, coffee-making equipment, filters, storage containers, and other accessories. Smaller stores and kiosks typically sold a full line of coffee beverages, a limited selection of whole-bean coffees, and a few hardware items.
In recent years, the company began selling special jazz and blues CDs, which in some cases were special compilations that had been put together for Starbucks to use as store background music. The idea for selling the CDs originated with a Starbucks store manager who had worked in the music industry and selected the new "tape of the month" Starbucks played as background in its stores. He had gotten compliments from customers wanting to buy the music they heard and suggested to senior executives that there was a market for the company's music tapes. Research that involved looking through two years of comment cards turned up hundreds asking Starbucks to sell the music it played in its stores. The Starbucks CDs, created from the Capitol Records library, proved a significant addition to the company's product line. Some of the CDs were specifically collections designed to tie in with new blends of coffee that the company was promoting. Starbucks also sold Oprah's Book Club selections, the profits of which were donated to a literacy fund supported by the Starbucks Foundation.
The company was constantly engaged in efforts to develop new ideas, new products, and new experiences for customers that belonged exclusively to Starbucks. Schultz and other senior executives drummed in the importance of always being open to re-inventing the Starbucks experience.
Starbucks management looked upon each store as a billboard for the company and as a contributor to building the company's brand and image. Each detail was scrutinized to enhance the mood and ambience of the store, to make sure everything signaled "best of class" and that it reflected the personality of the community and the neighborhood. The thesis was "Everything matters." The company went to great lengths to make sure the store fixtures, the merchandise displays, the colors, the artwork, the banners, the music, and the aromas all blended to create a consistent, inviting, stimulating environment that evoked the romance of coffee, that signaled the company's passion for coffee, and that rewarded customers with ceremony, stories, and surprise. Starbucks was recognized for its sensitivity to neighborhood conservation with the Scenic America's award for excellent design and "sensitive reuse of spaces within cities."
To try to keep the coffee aromas in the stores pure, Starbucks banned smoking and asked employees to refrain from wearing perfumes or colognes. Prepared foods were kept covered so customers would smell coffee only. Colorful banners and posters were used to keep the look of Starbucks stores fresh and in keeping with seasons and holidays. Company designers came up with artwork for commuter mugs and T-shirts in different cities that was in keeping with each city's personality (peach-shaped coffee mugs for Atlanta, pictures of Paul Revere for Boston and the Statue of Liberty for New York).
To make sure that Starbucks' stores measured up to standards, the company used "mystery shoppers" who posed as customers and rated each location on a number of criteria.
Building a Top Management Team
Schultz continued to strengthen Starbucks' top management team, hiring people with extensive experience in managing and expanding retail chains. Orin Smith, who had an MBA from Harvard and 13 years' experience at Deloitte and Touche, was brought in as chief financial officer in 1990 and then was promoted to president and chief operating officer in 1994. The four key executives during the company's formative yearsHoward Schultz, Dave Olsen, Howard Behar, and Orin Smithcontributed the most to defining and shaping the company's values, principles, and culture. As the company grew, additional executives were added in marketing, store supervision, specialty sales, human resources, finance, and information systems. Schultz also took care to add people to Starbucks' board of directors who had experience growing a retail chain and who could add valuable perspectives.
Accommodating fast growth also meant putting in systems to recruit, hire, and train baristas and store managers. Starbucks' vice president for human resources used some simple guidelines in screening candidates for new positions: "We want passionate people who love coffee . . . We're looking for a diverse workforce, which reflects our community. We want people who enjoy what they're doing and for whom work is an extension of themselves."16 Some 80 percent of Starbucks employees were white, 85 percent had some education beyond high school, and the average age was 26.
Every partner/barista hired for a retail job in a Starbucks store received at least 24 hours training in the first two to four weeks. The training included classes on coffee history, drink preparation, coffee knowledge (four hours), customer service (four hours), and retail skills, plus a four-hour workshop called "Brewing the Perfect Cup." Baristas were trained in using the cash register, weighing beans, opening the bag properly, capturing the beans without spilling them on the floor, holding the bag in a way that keeps air from being trapped inside, and affixing labels on the package exactly one-half inch over the Starbucks logo. Beverage preparation occupied even more training time, involving such activities as grinding the beans, steaming milk, learning to pull perfect (18- to 23-second) shots of espresso, memorizing the recipes of all the different drinks, practicing making the different drinks, and learning how to make drinks to customer specifications. There were sessions on how to clean the milk wand on the espresso machine, explain the Italian drink names to customers, sell an $875 home espresso machine, make eye contact with customers, and take personal responsibility for the cleanliness of the coffee bins. Everyone was drilled in the Star Skills, three guidelines for on-the-job interpersonal relations: (1) maintain and enhance self-esteem, (2) listen and acknowledge, and (3) ask for help. And there were rules to be memorized: milk must be steamed to at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit but never more than 170 degrees; every espresso shot not pulled within 23 seconds must be tossed; customers who order one pound of beans must be given exactly thatnot .995 pounds or 1.1 pounds; never let coffee sit in the pot more than 20 minutes; always compensate dissatisfied customers with a Starbucks coupon that entitles them to a free drink.
Management trainees attended classes for 8 to 12 weeks. Their training went much deeper, covering not only the information imparted to baristas but also the details of store operations, practices and procedures as set forth in the company's operating manual, information systems, and the basics of managing people. Starbucks' trainers were all store managers and district managers with on-site experience. One of their major objectives was to ingrain the company's values, principles, and culture and to impart their knowledge about coffee and their passion about Starbucks.
Each time Starbucks opened stores in a new market, it undertook a major recruiting effort. Eight to 10 weeks before opening, the company placed ads to hire baristas and begin their training. It sent a Star team of experienced managers and baristas from existing stores to the area to lead the store-opening effort and to conduct one-on-one training following the company's formal classes and basic orientation sessions at the Starbucks Coffee School in San Francisco.
Dave Olsen, Starbucks' senior vice president for coffee, personally spearheaded Starbucks' efforts to secure top-notch coffee beans to supply the company's growing needs. He traveled regularly to coffee-producing countriesColombia, Sumatra, Yemen, Antigua, Indonesia, Guatemala, New Guinea, Costa Rica, Sulawesi, Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Ethiopia, Javabuilding relationships with growers and exporters, checking on agricultural conditions and crop yields, and searching out varieties and sources that would meet Starbucks' exacting standards of quality and flavor. Reporting to Olsen was a group that created and tested new blends of beans from different sources.
Although most coffee was purchased in the commodity marketcoffee was the world's second largest traded commoditycoffee of the quality sought by Starbucks was usually purchased on a negotiated basis at a substantial premium above commodity coffees, depending on supply and demand at the time of purchase. Coffee prices were subject to considerable volatility due to weather, economic, and political conditions in the growing countries, as well as agreements establishing export quotas or efforts on the part of the International Coffee Organization and the Association of Coffee Producing Countries to restrict coffee supplies.
Starbucks entered into fixed-price purchase commitments in order to secure an adequate supply of quality green coffee beans and to limit its exposure to fluctuating coffee prices in upcoming periods. When satisfactory fixed-price commitments were not available, the company purchased coffee futures contracts to provide price protection. Nonetheless, there had been occasions in years past when unexpected jumps in coffee prices had put a squeeze on the company's margins and necessitated an increase in the prices of its beverages and beans sold at retail.
Roasting Coffee Beans
Starbucks considered the roasting of its coffee beans to be an art form. Each batch was roasted in a powerful gas oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Highly trained and experienced roasting personnel monitored the process, using both smell and hearing, to judge when the beans were perfectly donecoffee beans make a popping sound when ready. Starbucks' standards were so exacting that roasters tested the color of the beans in a blood-cell analyzer and discarded the entire batch if the reading wasn't on target.
On a daily basis, when he wasn't traveling in search of coffee supplies, Dave Olsen checked coffee samples from the roasting process, sniffing the aromas, tasting sample cups, and recording his observations in a logbook.
In 1998, Starbucks had three roasting plants. The company's smallest plant, built in 1989 and originally thought to be big enough to supply the company's needs for the next 10 years, was dedicated to supplying the company's mail-order business. In 1993, a 305,000-square-foot plant was opened in Kent, Washington, just south of Seattle; its output mainly was being used to supply stores west of the Mississippi. In 1994, the company began construction of an $11 million roasting facility in York, Pennsylvania, that could be expanded to 1 million square feet to supply stores east of the Mississippi.
Bonding with Customers
About 5 million customers per week were patronizing Starbucks stores in early 1998. Stores did about half of their business by 11 am. Loyal customers patronized a Starbucks store 15 to 20 times a month, spending perhaps $50 monthly. Some customers were Starbucks fanatics, coming in daily. Baristas became familiar with regular customers, learning their names and their favorite drinks. Christine Nagy, a field director for Oracle Corporation in Palo Alto, California, told a Wall Street Journal reporter, "For me, it's a daily necessity or I start getting withdrawals."17 Her standard order was a custom drink: a decaf grande nonfat no-whip no-foam extra-cocoa mocha; when the baristas saw her come through the door, she told the reporter, "They just [said,] 'We need a Christine here.'"
Mail Order Sales
Starbucks published a mail-order catalog that was distributed six times a year and that offered coffee, candies and pastries, and select coffee-making equipment and accessories. A special business gift-giving catalog was mailed to business accounts during the 1997 Christmas holiday season. The company also had an electronic store on the Internet. In 1997, sales of this division were about $21.2 million, roughly 2 percent of total revenues; almost 50,000 mail-order customers were signed up to receive monthly deliveries of Starbucks coffee as of late 1997. Starbucks management believed that its direct-response marketing effort helped pave the way for retail expansion into new markets and reinforced brand recognition in existing markets.
In 1994, after months of meetings and experimentation, PepsiCo and Starbucks entered into a joint venture arrangement to create new coffee-related products for mass distribution through Pepsi channels, including cold coffee drinks in a bottle or can. Howard Schultz saw this as a major paradigm shift with the potential to cause Starbucks business to evolve in heretofore unimaginable directions; he thought it was time to look for ways to move Starbucks out into more mainstream markets. Cold coffee products had generally met with very poor market reception, except in Japan, where there was an $8 billion market for ready-to-drink coffee-based beverages. Nonetheless, Schultz was hoping the partners would hit on a new product to exploit a good-tasting coffee extract that had been developed by Starbucks' recently appointed director of research and development. The joint venture's first new product, Mazagran, a lightly flavored carbonated coffee drink, was a failure; when test- marketed in southern California, some consumers liked it and some hated it. While people were willing to try it the first time, partly because the Starbucks name was on the label, repeat sales proved disappointing. Despite the clash of cultures and the different motivations of the two partners, the partnership held together because of the good working relationship that evolved between Howard Schultz and Pepsi's senior executives. Then Schultz, at a meeting to discuss the future of Mazagran, suggested, "Why not develop a bottled version of Frappuccino?"18 Starbucks had come up with the new cold coffee drink it called Frappuccino in the summer of 1995, and it had proved to be a big hot-weather seller; Pepsi executives were enthusiastic. After months of experimentation, the joint venture product research team came up with a shelf-stable version of Frappuccino that tasted quite good. It was tested in West Coast supermarkets in the summer of 1996; the response was overwhelming, with sales running 10 times over projections and 70 percent repeat business. In September 1996, the partnership invested in three bottling facilities to make Frappuccino, with plans to begin wider distribution. Sales of Frappuccino reached $125 million in 1997 and achieved national supermarket penetration of 80 percent. Sales were projected to reach $500 million in 1998; Starbucks management believed that the market for Frappuccino would ultimately exceed $1 billion.
In October 1995 Starbucks partnered with Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream to supply coffee extract for a new line of coffee ice cream made and distributed by Dreyer's under the Starbucks brand. The new line, featuring such flavors as Dark Roast Espresso Swirl, JavaChip, Vanilla MochaChip, Biscotti Bliss, and Caffe Almond Fudge, hit supermarket shelves in April 1996; by July, Starbucks coffee-flavored ice cream was the top-selling superpremium brand in the coffee segment. In 1997, two new low-fat flavors were added to complement the original six flavors, along with two flavors of ice cream bars; all were well received in the marketplace. Additional new ice cream products were planned for 1998.
Also in 1995, Starbucks worked with Seattle's Redhook Ale Brewery to create Double Black Stout, a stout beer with a shot of Starbucks coffee extract in it.
Licensed Stores and Specialty Sales
In recent years Starbucks had begun entering into a limited number of licensing agreements for store locations in areas where it did not have ability to locate its own outlets. The company had an agreement with Marriott Host International that allowed Host to operate Starbucks retail stores in airport locations, and it had an agreement with Aramark Food and Services to put Starbucks stores on university campuses and other locations operated by Aramark. Starbucks received a license fee and a royalty on sales at these locations and supplied the coffee for resale in the licensed locations. All licensed stores had to follow Starbucks' detailed operating procedures, and all managers and employees who worked in these stores received the same training given to Starbucks managers and store employees.
Starbucks also had a specialty sales group that provided its coffee products to restaurants, airlines, hotels, universities, hospitals, business offices, country clubs, and select retailers. One of the early users of Starbucks coffee was Horizon Airlines, a regional carrier based in Seattle. In 1995, Starbucks entered into negotiations with United Airlines to have Starbucks coffee served on all United flights. There was much internal debate at Starbucks about whether such a move made sense for Starbucks and the possible damage to the integrity of the Starbucks brand if the quality of the coffee served did not measure up. After seven months of negotiation and discussion over coffee-making procedures, United Airlines and Starbucks came up with a way to handle quality control on some 500-plus planes with varying equipment, and Starbucks became the coffee supplier to the 20 million passengers flying United each year.
In addition, Starbucks made arrangements to supply an exclusive coffee blend to Nordstrom's for sale only in Nordstrom stores, to operate coffee bars in Barnes & Noble bookstores, and to offer coffee service at some Wells Fargo Bank locations in California. Most recently, Starbucks began selling its coffees in Chapters, a Toronto book retailer with sites throughout Canada, and in Costco warehouse club stores. A 1997 agreement with U.S. Office Products gave Starbucks the opportunity to provide its coffee to workers in 1.5 million business offices. In fiscal 1997, the specialty sales division generated sales of $117.6 million, equal to 12.2 percent of total revenues.
In markets outside the continental United States (including Hawaii), Starbucks' strategy was to license a reputable and capable local company with retailing know-how in the target host country to develop and operate new Starbucks stores. In some cases, Starbucks was a joint venture partner in the stores outside the continental Untied States. Starbucks created a new subsidiary, Starbucks Coffee International (SCI), to orchestrate overseas expansion and begin to build the Starbucks brand name globally via licensees; Howard Behar was president of SCI.
Going into 1998, SCI had 12 retail stores in Tokyo, 7 in Hawaii, 6 in Singapore, and 1 in the Philippines. Agreements had been signed with licensees to begin opening stores in Taiwan and Korea in 1998. The company and its licensees had plans to open as many as 40 stores in the Pacific Rim by the end of September 1998. The licensee in Taiwan foresaw a potential of 200 stores in that country alone. The potential of locating stores in Europe and Latin America was being explored.
Howard Schultz's effort to "build a company with soul" included a broad-based program of corporate responsibility, orchestrated mainly through the Starbucks Foundation, set up in 1997. Starbucks was the largest corporate contributor in North America to CARE, a worldwide relief and development organization that sponsored health, education, and humanitarian aid programs in most of the Third World countries where Starbucks purchased its coffee supplies; Starbucks began making annual corporate contributions to CARE when it became profitable in 1991. In addition, CARE samplers of coffee and CARE-related mugs, backpacks, and T-shirts were offered in the company's mail-order catalog; a portion of the price on all sales was donated to CARE. In 1995 Starbucks began a program to improve the conditions of workers in coffee-growing countries, establishing a code of conduct for its growers and providing financial assistance for agricultural improvement projects. In 1997, Starbucks formed an alliance with Appropriate Technology International to help poor, small-scale coffee growers in Guatemala increase their income by improving the quality of their crops and their market access; the company's first-year grant of $75,000 went to fund a new processing facility and set up a loan program for a producer cooperative. Starbucks stores also featured CARE in promotions and had organized concerts with Kenny G and Mary Chapin Carpenter to benefit CARE.
Starbucks had an Environmental Committee that looked for ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle waste, as well as contribute to local community environmental efforts. There was also a Green Team, consisting of store managers from all regions. The company had donated almost $200,000 to literacy improvement efforts, using the profits from store sales of Oprah's Book Club selections. Starbucks stores participated regularly in local charitable projects of one kind or another, donating drinks, books, and proceeds from store-opening benefits. The company's annual report listed nearly 100 community organizations which Starbucks and its employees had supported in 1997 alone. Employees were encouraged to recommend and apply for grants from the Starbucks Foundation to benefit local community literacy organizations.
On the Fourth of July weekend in 1997, three Starbucks employees were murdered in the company's store in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C. Starbucks offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the murderer(s) and announced it would reopen the store in early 1998 and donate all future net proceeds of that store to a Starbucks Memorial Fund that would make annual grants to local groups working to reduce violence and aid the victims of violent crimes.
Going into 1997, there were an estimated 8,000 specialty coffee outlets in the United States. Starbucks' success was prompting a number of ambitious rivals to scale up their expansion plans. Observers believed there was room in the category for two or three national players, maybe more. Starbucks' closest competitor, Second Cup, a Canadian franchisor with stores primarily in Canada, was less than one-third its size; Second Cup owned Gloria Jeans, a franchisor of specialty coffees, with stores located primarily in malls throughout the United States. No other rival had as many as 250 stores, but there were at least 20 small local and regional chains that aspired to grow into rivals of Starbucks, most notably New World Coffee, Coffee People, Coffee Station, Java Centrale, and Caribou Coffee. Observers expected many of the local and regional chains to merge in efforts to get bigger and better position themselves as an alternative to Starbucks. In addition, numerous restaurants were picking up on the growing popularity of specialty coffees and had installed machines to serve espresso, cappuccino, lattè, and other coffee drinks to their customers.
The company also faced competition from nationwide coffee manufacturers such as Kraft General Foods (the parent of Maxwell House), Procter & Gamble (the owner of the Folger's brand), and Nestlé, which distributed their coffees through supermarkets. There were also a number of specialty coffee companies that sold whole-bean coffees in supermarkets. Because many consumers were accustomed to purchasing their coffee supplies at supermarkets, it was easy for them to substitute these products for Starbucks.
Building the Starbucks Brand
So far, Starbucks had spent very little money on advertising, preferring instead to build the brand cup by cup with customers and depend on word-of-mouth and the appeal of its storefronts. The company was, however, engaged in a growing effort to extend the Starbucks brand and penetrate new markets. In addition to expanding internationally, venturing into ice cream with Dreyer's and into Frappuccino with Pepsi, partnering with licensees, and developing specialty and mail-order sales, Starbucks had recently begun selling its coffees in supermarkets.
Supermarket sales were test-marketed in over 500 stores in Chicago in the summer of 1997. Management believed that the tests confirmed the appeal of offering Starbucks coffee to existing customers in convenient supermarket locations while at the same time introducing new customers to its products. Two-thirds of all coffee was sold in supermarkets. In November 1997, Starbucks hired Nestlé veteran, Jim Ailing, as senior vice president of grocery operations to direct Starbucks' supermarket sales effort. The company started rolling out supermarket sales of its coffees in 10 major metropolitan areas in the spring of 1998. Starbucks coffee sold in supermarkets featured distinctive, elegant packaging; prominent positions in grocery aisles; and the same premium quality as that sold in its own stores. Product freshness was guaranteed by Starbucks' FlavorLock packaging, and the price per pound paralleled the prices in Starbucks' retail stores.
The company was also said to be testing "light roast" coffee blends for those customers who found its current offerings too strong. And, in the summer of 1997, Starbucks quietly test-marketed four 20 percent fruit-juice beverages in one market.19 The single-serve bottled drinks were priced around $2, and at least one contained caffeine. Also on the new-product front was an apple cider made exclusively for Starbucks by Nantucket Nectars. Plus, the company was selling chocolate bars and other candy, and had plans to bring candy production in-house if sales went well enough.
Industry analysts in 1998 saw Starbucks as being well on its way to becoming the Nike or Coca-Cola of the specialty coffee segment. It was the only company with anything close to national market coverage. The company's most immediate objective was to have 2,000 stores in operation by the year 2000. Its longer range objective was to become the most recognized and respected brand of coffee in the world. The company's efforts to greatly increase its sphere of strategic interest via its joint ventures with Pepsi and Dreyer's, its move to sell coffee in supermarkets, and the possibility of marketing fruit-juice drinks and candy under the Starbucks label represented an ongoing drive on Schultz's part to continually reinvent the way Starbucks did business.
In order to sustain the company's growth and make Starbucks a strong global brand, Schultz believed that the company had to challenge the status quo, be innovative, take risks, and alter its vision of who it was, what it did, and where it was headed. Under his guidance, management was posing a number of fundamental strategic questions: What could Starbucks do to make its stores an even more elegant "third place" that welcomed, rewarded, and surprised customers? What new products and new experiences could the company provide that would uniquely belong to or be associated with Starbucks? What could coffee bebesides being hot or liquid? How could Starbucks reach people who were not coffee drinkers? What strategic paths should Starbucks pursue to achieve its objective of becoming the most recognized and respected brand of coffee in the world?
Arthur A. Thompson,
The University of Alabama
Public Company 1992-
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