Revised April 7, 2003
Starbucks Corporation: Competing in a Global Market
Starbucks Corporation is a Seattle, Washington-based coffee company. It buys, roasts, and sells whole bean
specialty coffees and coffee drinks through an international chain of retail outlets. From its beginnings as a seller of
packaged, premium specialty coffees, Starbucks has evolved into a firm known for its coffeehouses, where people
can purchase beverages and food items as well as packaged whole bean and ground coffee. Starbucks is credited
with changing the way Americans--and people around the world--view and consume coffee, and its success has
attracted global attention.
Starbucks has consistently been one of the fastest growing companies in the United States. Over a 10-year period
starting in 1992, the company’s net revenues increased at a compounded annual growth rate of 20%, to $3.3 billion
in fiscal 2002. Net earnings have grown at an annual compounded growth rate of 30% to $218 million in fiscal
2002, which is the highest reported net earnings figure in the company's history (See Exhibit 1
). As Business Week
On Wall Street, Starbucks is the last great growth story. Its stock, including four splits, has soared more than
2,200% over the past decade, surpassing Wal-Mart, General Electric, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and IBM
in total return. Now at $21 [September 2002], it is hovering near its all-time high of $23 in July , before
the overall market drop.1
To continue this rapid pace of growth, the firm’s senior executives are looking to expand internationally.
Specifically, they are interested in further expansion in Europe (including the Middle East), Asia Pacific (including
Australia and New Zealand) and Latin America. Expanding in these three continents represents both a challenge
and an opportunity to Starbucks. While the opportunity of increased revenues from further expansion is readily
apparent to the company’s top management, what is not clear is how to deal with growing “anti-globalization”
sentiment around the world.
This case looks at issues that are arising as Starbucks seeks to dominate specialty coffee markets around
the world and explores what changes in strategy might be required.
This case was written by Professors Suresh Kotha and Debra Glassman, both from the University of Washington, Business School, as the basis
for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation. Some of the facts provided in
the case have been disguised to protect confidentiality. Copyright © Kotha & Glassman 2003. All rights reserved.
1 Planet Starbucks, Business Week
, September 9, 2002, p. 100-110.
In 1971, three Seattle entrepreneurs—Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker—started selling whole-bean
coffee in Seattle's Pike Place Market. They named their store Starbucks, after the first mate in Moby Dick
1982, the business had grown to five stores, a small roasting facility, and a wholesale business selling coffee to local
restaurants. At the same time, Howard Schultz had been working as VP of U.S. operations for Hammarplast, a
Swedish house wares company in New York, marketing coffee makers to a number of retailers, including
Starbucks. Through selling to Starbucks, Schultz was introduced to the three founders, who then recruited him to
bring marketing savvy to their company. Schultz, 29 and recently married, was eager to leave New York. He
joined Starbucks as manager of retail sales and marketing.
A year later, Schultz visited Italy for the first time on a buying trip. He noticed that coffee is an integral part of the
culture in Italy; Italians start their day at an espresso bar and later in the day return with their friends. There are
200,000 coffee bars in Italy, and about 1500 in Milan alone. Schultz believed that, given the chance, Americans
would pay good money for a premium cup of coffee and a stylish place to enjoy it. Enthusiastic about his idea,
Schultz returned to tell Starbucks’ owners of his plan for a national chain of cafes styled on the Italian coffee bar.
The owners, however, did not want to be in the restaurant business. Undaunted, Schultz wrote a business plan and
began looking for investors. By April 1985 he had opened his first coffee bar, Il Giornale (named after the Italian
newspaper), where he served Starbucks coffee. Following Il Giornale's immediate success, he expanded to three
stores. In 1987, the owners of Starbucks agreed to sell the firm to Schultz for $4 million. The Il Giornale coffee bars
took on the name of Starbucks.
Convinced that Starbucks would one day be in every neighborhood in America, Schultz focused on growth. At
first, the company's losses almost doubled (to $1.2 million in fiscal 1990), as overhead and operating expenses
ballooned with the expansion. Starbucks lost money for three years running, and the stress was hard on Schultz, but
he stuck to his conviction not to “sacrifice long-term integrity and values for short-term profit.”3 In 1991 sales shot
up 84 percent, and the company turned profitable. In 1992 Schultz took the firm public at $17 a share.
Believing that market share and name recognition are critical to the company’s success, Schultz continued to expand
the business aggressively. Schultz observes, “There is no secret sauce here. Anyone can do it.” From the beginning,
Schultz has professed a strict growth policy. Although many other coffeehouses or espresso bars are franchised,
Starbucks owns all of its North American stores outright, with the exception of license agreements in airports.
Further, rather than trying to capture all the potential markets as soon as possible, Starbucks goes into a geographic
market and tries to completely dominate it before setting its sights on further expansion. Using this strategy,
Starbucks has grown from 17 coffee shops in 1987 to 5,688 outlets in 28 countries by the end of fiscal 2002 (see Exhibit 2
). It also employed over 60,000 individuals, including approximately 50,000 in retail stores at the end of
Starbucks Corporation is organized into two business units that correspond to the company's operating segments:
North American and International. In 1995, Starbucks Coffee International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Starbucks
Coffee Company, was set up to build Starbucks’ businesses outside North America, including opening company-
owned, licensed, and joint-venture-based retail stores worldwide.
A recent article in Business Week
“Starbucks also has a well-seasoned management team. Schultz, 49, stepped down as chief executive in 2000 to
become chairman and chief global strategist. Orin Smith, 60, the company's numbers-cruncher, is now CEO
and in charge of day-to-day operations. The head of North American operations is Howard Behar, 57, a
2 According to Business Week
(September 9, 2002, p.103), “The name came about when the original owners looked to Seattle
history for inspiration and chose the moniker of an old mining camp: Starbo. Further refinement led to Starbucks, after the first
mate in Moby Dick
, which they felt evoked the seafaring romance of the early coffee traders (hence the mermaid logo).”
, April, 1993.
retailing expert who returned last September, two years after retiring. The management trio is known as H20,
for Howard, Howard, and Orin.”4 Exhibit 3
provides a partial list of Starbucks top management, and Appendix A
provides a timeline and history of
Starbucks. THE STARBUCKS MODEL
Howard Schultz’s goal is to: “Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while
maintaining uncompromising principles as we grow.” The company’s 25-year goal is to “become an enduring, great
company with the most recognized and respected brand in the world, known for inspiring and nurturing the human
spirit.” The company’s mission statement articulates several guiding principles to measure the appropriateness of
the firm’s decisions (see Exhibit 4
). In describing Starbucks’ unique approach to competition, Fortune
The strategy is simple: Blanket an area completely, even if the stores cannibalize one another's business. A new
store will often capture about 30% of the sales of a nearby Starbucks, but the company considers that a good
thing: The Starbucks-everywhere approach cuts down on delivery and management costs, shortens customer
lines at individual stores, and increases foot traffic for all the stores in an area. Last week 20 million people
bought a cup of coffee at a Starbucks. A typical customer stops by 18 times a month; no American retailer has a
higher frequency of customer visits. Sales have climbed an average of 20% a year since the company went
public. Even in a down economy, when other retailers have taken a beating, Starbucks store traffic has risen
between 6% and 8% a year. Perhaps even more notable is the fact that Starbucks has managed to generate those
kinds of numbers with virtually no marketing, spending just 1% of its annual revenues on advertising.
(Retailers usually spend 10% or so of revenues on ads.)5 Business Week
Clustering stores increases total revenue and market share, [CEO] Orin Smith argues, even when individual
stores poach on each other’s sales. The strategy works, he says, because of Starbucks size. It is large enough to
absorb losses at existing stores as new ones open up, and soon overall sales grow beyond what they would have
with just one store. Meanwhile, it’s cheaper to deliver to and manage stores located close together. And by
clustering, Starbucks can quickly dominate a local market.6
And Schultz points out:
The market is much larger than we originally thought. … In most cases local competitors benefit from our
arrival because of the expansion of the marketplace. Our strategy is never to eliminate or hurt the competition.
We never under-price our coffee and it's clear that we position ourselves so as not to undercut the pricing
structure in the marketplace.
Schultz observes that the company is still in its early days of growth worldwide. “We are opening three or four
stores every day,” he notes. “We feel strongly that the driver of the equity of the brand is directly linked to the retail
experience we create in our stores. Our commitment to the growth of the company is significant and will continue
to be based on the long-term growth potential of our retail format.” Securing the Finest Raw Materials
Starbucks’ coffee quality begins with the purchase of high-quality arabica
coffee beans. Although many
Americans were raised on a commodity-like coffee made from lower quality robusta
beans (or arabica beans mixed
with less-expensive filler beans), Starbucks coffee is strictly arabica
, and the company ensures that only the highest
quality beans are used. Dave Olsen, the company’s then senior vice president and then chief coffee procurer,
scoured mountain trails in Indonesia, Kenya, Guatemala and elsewhere in search of Starbucks’ premium bean. His
4 Planet Starbucks, Business Week
, September 9, 2002, p. 100-110.
5 Mr. Coffee. Fortune
, March 30, 2003.
6 Planet Starbucks. Business Week
, September 9, 2002, p.103.
standards were demanding, and he conducted exacting experiments in order to get the proper balance of flavor,
body and acidity.
From the company’s inception, it has worked on developing relationships with the countries from which it buys
coffee beans. Traditionally, Europeans and Japanese bought most of the premium coffee beans. Olsen sometimes
had to convince coffee growers to sell to Starbucks--especially since American coffee buyers are notorious
purchasers of the "dregs" of the coffee beans. In 1992 Starbucks set a new precedent by outbidding European
buyers for the exclusive Narino Supremo Bean crop.7 Starbucks collaborated with a mill in the tiny town of Pasto,
located on the side of the Volcano Galero. There they set up a special operation to single out the particular Narino
Supremo bean, and Starbucks guaranteed to purchase the entire yield. This enabled Starbucks to be the exclusive
purveyor of Narino Supremo, purportedly one of the best coffees in the world.8 Vertical Integration
Roasting the coffee bean is close to an art form at Starbucks. Starbucks currently operates multiple roasting and
distribution facilities. Roasters are promoted from within the company and trained for over a year, and it is
considered quite an honor to be chosen. The coffee is roasted in a powerful gas-fired drum roaster for 12 to 15
minutes while roasters use sight, smell, hearing and computers to judge when beans are perfectly done. The color
of the beans is even tested in an Agtron blood-cell analyzer, with the whole batch being discarded if the sample is
not deemed perfect.
The Starbucks Experience
According to Schultz, “We’re not just selling a cup of coffee, we are providing an experience.” In order to create
American coffee enthusiasts with the dedication of their Italian counterparts, Starbucks provides a seductive
atmosphere in which to imbibe. Its stores are distinctive and sleek, yet comfortable. Though the sizes of the stores
and their formats vary, most are modeled after the Italian coffee bars where regulars sit and drink espresso with their
Starbucks stores tend to be located in high-traffic locations such as malls, busy street corners, and even grocery
stores. They are well lighted and feature plenty of light cherry wood and artwork. The people who prepare the
coffee are referred to as “baristas,” Italian for bartender. Jazz or opera music plays softly in the background. The
stores range from 200 to 4,000 square feet, with new units tending to range from 1,500 to 1,700 square feet. In
2003, the average cost of opening a new store (including equipment, inventory and leasehold improvements) is in
the neighborhood $350,000; a “flagship” store costs much more. Building a Unique Culture
While Starbucks enforces almost fanatical standards about coffee quality and service, the policy at Starbucks
towards employees is laid-back and supportive. They are encouraged to think of themselves as partners in the
business. Schultz believes that happy employees are the key to competitiveness and growth.
We can't achieve our strategic objectives without a work force of people who are immersed in the same
commitment as management. Our only sustainable advantage is the quality of our work force. We're building a
national retail company by creating pride in--and stake in--the outcome of our labor.9
7 This Colombian coffee bean crop is very small and grows only in the high regions of the Cordillera mountain range. For years,
the Narino beans were guarded zealously by Western Europeans, who prized their colorful and complex flavor. It was usually
used for upgrading blends. Starbucks was determined to make them available for the first time as a pure varietal. This required
breaking Western Europe's monopoly over the beans by convincing the Colombian growers that it intended to use "the best beans
for a higher purpose."
8 The Canada Newswire
, March 1, 1993.
, January, 1993.
On a practical level, Starbucks promotes an empowered employee culture through generous benefits programs, an
employee stock ownership plan, and thorough employee training, Each employee must have at least 24 hours of
training. Classes cover everything from coffee history to a seven-hour workshop called “Brewing the Perfect Cup at
Home.” This workshop is one of five classes that all employees must complete during their first six weeks with the
company. Reports Fortune
It’s silly, soft-headed stuff, though basically, of course, it’s true. Maybe some of it sinks in. Starbucks is a
smashing success, thanks in large part to the people who come out these therapy-like training programs. Annual
barista turnover at the company is 60% compared with 140% for hourly workers in the fast-food business. 10
Starbucks offers its benefits package to both part-time and full-time employees. The package includes medical,
dental, vision and short-term disability insurance, as well as paid vacation, paid holidays, mental health/chemical
dependency benefits, an employee assistance program, a 401k savings plan and a stock option plan. They also offer
dependent coverage that includes same-sex partners.11 Schultz believes that without these benefits, people do not
feel financially or spiritually tied to their jobs. He argues that stock options and the complete benefits package
increase employee loyalty and encourage attentive service to the customer.12
Employee turnover is also discouraged by Starbucks’ stock option plan known as the Bean Stock Plan.
Implemented in August of 1991, the plan made Starbucks the only private company to offer stock options
unilaterally to all employees.
Starbucks’ concern for employee welfare extends beyond its retail outlets to coffee producers. The company’s
guidelines call for overseas suppliers to pay wages and benefits that “address the basic needs of workers and their
families” and to allow child labor only when it does not interrupt required education.13 This move has set a
precedent for other importers of agricultural commodities. Leveraging the Brand
Multiple Channels of Distribution.
Besides its stand-alone stores, Starbucks has set up cafes and carts in hospitals,
banks, office buildings, supermarkets and shopping centers. Other distribution agreements have included office
coffee suppliers, hotels, and airlines. Office coffee is a large segment of the coffee market. Associated Services (an
office coffee supplier) provides Starbucks coffee exclusively to thousands of businesses round the United States.
Starbucks has deals with airlines, such as an agreement with United Airlines to provide Starbucks coffee to United’s
nearly 75 million passengers a year. Starbucks, through a licensing agreement with Kraft Foods Inc., offers its
coffee in grocery stores across the United States. Brand Extensions.
In 1995, Starbucks launched a line of packaged and prepared teas in response to growing
demand for tea-houses and packaged tea. Tea is a highly profitable beverage for restaurants to sell, costing only 2
cents to 4 cents a cup to produce.14 As its tea line became increasingly popular, in January 1999 it acquired Tazo, a
Portland, Oregon based tea company.
Starbucks coffee is also making its way onto grocery shelves via a carefully planned series of joint ventures.15 An
agreement with PepsiCo Inc. brought a bottled version of Starbucks Frappuccino (a cold, sweetened coffee drink) to
, December 9, 1996.
11 The decision to offer benefits even to part-time employees (who represent roughly two-thirds of Starbucks 10,000 employees)
has gained a great deal of attention in the press. According to a Hewitt Associates L.L.C. survey of more than 500 employers,
only 25% of employers offer medical coverage to employees working less than 20 hours a week. It was difficult to get insurers
to sign Starbucks up since they did not understand why Starbucks would want to cover part-timers.
12 Inc., January, 1993.
13 The Wall Street Journal
, October 23, 1995.
14Nations Restaurant News
, July 10, 1995.
15The Specialty Coffee Association of America notes that supermarkets account for over 60 percent of all coffee sold in the
America, followed by gourmet stores (14%), mass market (11%), mail order (8%) and other.
store shelves in August of 1996. In another 50-50 partnership, Dreyers’ Grand Ice Cream Inc. distributes seven
quart-products and two bar-products of Starbucks coffee ice cream.
Other partnerships by the company are designed to form new product associations with coffee. For instance, the
company’s music subsidiary, Hear Music, regularly releases CDs, some in collaboration with major record labels,
that are then sold through Starbucks retail stores.
While Starbucks is the largest and best known of the coffeehouse chains and its presence is very apparent in
metropolitan areas, the firm’s estimates indicate that only a small percentage (about 7%) of the US population has
tried its products. Through distribution agreements and the new product partnerships, Starbucks hopes to capture
more of the US market. INTERNATIONAL EXPANSION
For many years analysts have observed that the US coffee-bar market may be reaching saturation. They point to
market consolidation, as bigger players snap up some of the smaller coffee bar competitors.16 Further, they note that
Starbucks’ store base is also maturing, leading to a slowdown in the growth of unit volume and firm profitability. In
response, some argue, Starbucks has turned its attention to foreign markets for continued growth. For instance Business Week
To duplicate the staggering returns of its first decade, Starbucks has no choice but to export its concept
aggressively. Indeed, some analysts give Starbucks only two years at most before it saturates the U.S. market.
The chain now [in August 2002] operates 1,200 international outlets, from Beijing to Bristol. That leaves
plenty of room to grow. Indeed, about 400 of its planned 1,200 new stores this year will be built overseas,
representing a 35% increase in its foreign base. Starbucks expects to double the number of its stores
worldwide, to 10,000 in three years. 17
However, of the predicted three or four stores that will open each day, the majority will continue to be in the United
States. Early Expansion
In 1995, the firm established a subsidiary called Starbucks Coffee International Inc. At that time, the subsidiary
consisted of 12 managers located in Seattle. Today, this subsidiary is led by Australian expatriate Peter Maslen and
is staffed with about 180 experienced multi-national and multi-lingual managers located in Seattle and three
regional offices around the world. This group is responsible for all Starbucks business development outside North
America, including developing new businesses, financing and planning stores, managing operations and logistics,
merchandising, and training and developing Starbucks’ international managers.
Starbucks’ first non-North American store was opened in 1996 in Tokyo. In reflecting on this early step in
internationalizing the chain, Schultz notes:
Two years prior to opening up in Japan, we hired this blue-chip consulting firm to guide us to succeed here.
Basically, they said we would not succeed in Japan. There were a number of things they told us to change.
[They said] we had to have smoking, but that was a non-starter for us. They also said no Japanese would ever
lose face by drinking from a cup in the street. And third, they said that given the [high] rent, stores couldn't be
larger than 500 square feet…Well, our no-smoking policy made us an oasis in Japan. As for our to-go business,
you can't walk down a street in Tokyo today and not see someone holding a cup of Starbucks coffee. And our
store size in Japan is identical to our store size in the U.S., about 1,200 to 1,500 square feet. It just shows the
16The Washington Post
, August 1, 1995.
17Planet Starbucks. Business Week
, September 9, 2002, p.102. However, Schultz firmly believes that Starbucks growth is far
from saturation both in the United States and overseas: “We have less than 7% of the coffee-consuming opportunities in North
America. People are still drinking bad coffee.”
power of believing in what you do. And also that Starbucks is as relevant in Tokyo, Madrid, or Berlin as it is in
Seattle.18 The Starbucks Way
According to US News and World Report
When venturing overseas, there is a Starbucks way. The company finds local business partners in most foreign
markets…It tests each country with a handful of stores in trendy districts, using experienced Starbucks
managers. It sends local baristas to Seattle for 13 weeks of training. Then it starts opening stores by the dozen.
Its coffee lineup doesn't vary, but Starbucks does adapt its food to local tastes. In Britain, it won an award for
its mince pie. In Asia, Starbucks offers curry puffs and meat buns. The company also fits its interior décor to
the local architecture, especially in historic buildings. “We don't stamp these things out cookie-cutter style,”
says Peter Maslen, president of Starbucks Coffee International.19
Although Starbucks is committed to owning its North American stores, it has sought partners for much of its
overseas expansion. As Kathy Lindemann, SVP of Operations for Starbucks International, describes it:
Our approach to international expansion is to focus on the partnership first, country second
. We rely on the
local connection to get everything up and working. The key is finding the right local partners to negotiate local
regulations and other issues. We look for partners who share our values, culture, and goals about community
development. We are primarily interested in partners who can guide us through the process of starting up in a
foreign location. We look for firms with: (1) similar philosophy to ours in terms of shared values, corporate
citizenship, and commitment to be in the business for the long haul, (2) multi-unit restaurant experience, (3)
financial resources to expand the Starbucks concept rapidly to prevent imitators, (4) strong real-estate
experience with knowledge about how to pick prime real estate locations, (5) knowledge of the retail market,
and (6) the availability of the people to commit to our project.
In an international joint venture, it is the partner that chooses store sites. These are submitted for approval to
Starbucks, but the partner does all the preparatory and selection work. Cydnie Horwat, VP for International Assets
Development Systems & Infrastructure, explains how a Starbucks market entry plan starts with brand building,
which then facilitates rapid further expansion in a country:
When first entering a market, we’re looking for different things in the first one to three years than later on.
During these early years, we’re building our brand. Our stores are the biggest source of advertising, since wedo
not do a lot of separate advertising. So we have a higher investment in stores in the first three years. About 60-
70% of stores opened in these first three years are our high brand-builders.
First, we look for extremely visible sites in well-trafficked areas and focus on three major factors:
demographics, branding potential, and financials. Second we categorize sites on an A to D scale. ‘A’ sites are
‘signature’ sites that are qualitatively superior to all other sites within the trade area [an area within which
Starbucks chooses to locate one store]. We rarely take a ‘C’ or ‘D’ store.20 Third, we ask our international
Market Business Unit21 (MBU) to send in the ‘site’ submittal package with quantitative and qualitative
18 Online Extra: Q&A with Starbucks Howard Schultz. Business Week
, September 9, 2002.
19 US World and News Report
, February 19, 2001.
20 The difference between an ‘A’ store and a ‘D’ store can be substantial. A ‘D’ store is expected to have about 50-60% lower
sales. Starbucks classifies a store as ‘A’ if the store location is the focal point of the area, has great visibility, has readily
available parking, has excellent access to and from the site, cannot be out-positioned by competitors, and fits with Starbucks’
desire to build a distinctive image.
21 Starbucks’ international businesses are typically joint ventures in which Starbucks holds various levels of equity (ranging from
5% to 100%). These ventures are referred to as Market Business Units (MBU). Regardless of the level of equity Starbucks holds,
it supports all of its MBUs in an ‘ownership blind’ manner by providing all MBUs with the same level of support.
measures, such as how the site meets Starbucks’ established criteria and the partner’s agreed-upon criteria. This
package is reviewed by a number of functional units--operations, finance, and real estate--within the
International Group. Fourth, we move into the design phase, which is done in Seattle using information
provided by the partner. Next we negotiate the lease with landlord and initiate the construction when the
appropriate permits are obtained. Finally, we turn over the store to operations. The whole process takes about
13-16 weeks from start to finish. Establishing Starbucks as a Global Brand
Based on the success in Japan and other locations, Schultz’s goal is for Starbucks to have a ubiquitous image as one
of the most respected brands in the world. He notes:
Whenever we see the reception we're getting in markets in places such as China, the Philippines, Malaysia, the
U.K., and most recently Spain and Germany, we recognize that the growth potential for the company [overseas]
is very significant. We want to accelerate that growth, maintain our leadership position, and, ultimately, become
one of the most respected brands in the world.22
Since its early foray into the Japanese market, the pace of international expansion has picked up significantly. In
1998, Starbucks acquired Seattle Coffee Company in the United Kingdom, a chain with more than 38 retail
locations. That same year, it opened stores in Taiwan, Thailand, New Zealand, and Malaysia. In 1999, Starbucks
opened in China (Beijing), Kuwait, South Korea, and Lebanon. In 2000, it entered another seven markets (China –
Hong Kong and Shanghai, Dubai, Australia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain). It added three markets in 2001
(Switzerland, Israel, and Austria). Last year, another nine markets were opened (Oman, Spain, Indonesia, Germany,
Southern China – Macau and Shenzhen, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Greece). Exhibit 5
highlights the growth of
international stores, and Exhibit 6
provides the list of countries where Starbucks has a presence.
Schultz says that this expansion is only beginning and confidently predicts more to come:
Ten years ago, we had 125 stores and 2000 employees. Today we have 62,000 people working in 30 countries
outside of North America, serving approximately 22 million customers a week. Our core customer is coming in
about 18 times a month. With the majority of adults around the world drinking two cups of coffee a day and
with Starbucks having less than 7% share of total coffee consumption in the U.S. and less than 1% worldwide,
these are the early days for the growth and development of the company. We've got a model that has been well
tested from market to market.
Starbucks is well on its way to becoming a global brand. According to Business Week
[T]he Starbucks name and image connect with millions of consumers around the globe. It was one of the
fastest-growing brands in a Business Week
survey of the top 100 global brands published August 5 . At a
time when one corporate star after another has crashed to earth, brought down by revelations of earnings
misstatements, executive greed, or worse, Starbucks hasn't faltered.23
But becoming a global company is not without risks. As Business Week
Global expansion poses huge risks for Starbucks. For one thing, it makes less money on each overseas store
because most of them are operated with local partners. While that makes it easier to start up on foreign turf, it
reduces the company's share of the profits to only 20% to 50%.”24
In addition, the firm is becoming a target for anti-globalization activists around the world.
22 Online Extra: Q&A with Starbucks Howard Schultz, Business Week
, September 9, 2002.
23 Business Week
, “Planet Starbucks,” September 9, 2002, p.102
24 Business Week
, “Planet Starbucks,” September 9, 2002, p.102
PERILS OF GLOBALIZATION
As Starbucks establishes a global presence, its growing ubiquity has not gone unnoticed by anti-globalization
activists. A clear manifestation of this came in November 1999, as tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets
of downtown Seattle when the World Trade Organization (WTO) held its 3rd Ministerial conference there.
Although non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and activists had gathered to oppose the WTO, some activists
deliberately targeted multinationals like Starbucks, Nike and McDonalds.25 A small, but vocal, percentage of these
protestors garnered international press coverage by committing acts of vandalism against carefully chosen targets.
As a report in Business Week
Protesters flooded Seattle's streets, and among their targets was Starbucks, a symbol, to them, of free-market
capitalism run amok, another multinational out to blanket the earth. Amid the crowds of protesters and riot
police were black-masked anarchists who trashed the store, leaving its windows smashed and its tasteful green-
and-white decor smelling of tear gas instead of espresso.26
Recalling this incident against his firm Schultz says: “It's hurtful. I think people are ill-informed. It's very difficult to
protest against a can of Coke, a bottle of Pepsi, or a can of Folgers. Starbucks is both a ubiquitous brand and a
place where you can go and break a window. You can't break a can of Coke.”
Anti-globalization protesters target recognizable global brands because they are convenient symbols. The following
excerpt from “The Ruckus Society’s Action Planning Manual and Media Manual”27 illustrates the close ties
between global brands and the principles of direct action against them:
First, [we] use direct action to reduce the issues to symbols. These symbols must be carefully chosen for their
utility in illustrating a conflict: an oil company vs. an indigenous community, a government policy vs. the
public interest. Then we work to place these symbols in the public eye, in order to identify the evildoer, detail
the wrongdoing and, if possible, point to a more responsible option.
The message that activists want to communicate focuses on the overseas activities of corporations. They accuse
multinationals of paying less than a living wage to workers in the Third World, of engaging in labor and
environmental practices that would be outlawed in their home countries, of driving local competitors out of
business, and of furthering “cultural imperialism.” As one Global Trade Watch field organizer describes it:
The rules by which trade is governed need to have more to do with the interests of citizens than with the back
pockets and cash wads of a couple corporate CEOs. And we want to make sure that there is a balance
consideration. Obviously people are always going to be concerned with their profits – it's business, we
understand that, we accept that. But we think that needs to be balanced with concern for the rights of workers,
basic human rights, [and] protecting the environment.28
Critics further accuse international organizations like the WTO, World Bank, and IMF of promoting corporate
globalization by supporting trade liberalization, by promoting export-based economic development, and by
facilitating foreign direct investment. According to an organization that bills itself as Mobilization for Global
Most of the world's most impoverished countries have suffered under IMF/World Bank programs for two
decades: they've seen debt levels rise, unemployment skyrocket, poverty increase, and environments devastated.
Urged to export, they focus on cash crops like coffee instead of food for their own people, and allow foreign
governments to build sweatshops – which also puts pressure on jobs in the US. 29
25 The protesters claim that international organizations like the WTO and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are tools of
multinational corporations. Since Seattle, violent protests have been the norm at events such as the annual meetings of the IMF
and World Bank, G-8 summits, and the World Economic Forum.
26 Business Week
, “Planet Starbucks,” September 9, 2002.
27 The Ruckus Society website, http://ruckus.org/man/action_planning.html (site visited 3/14/03).
28 Interview with Alesha Daughtrey, Global Trade Watch field organizer, August 17, 2000; archived in the WTO History
Project, University of Washington Center for Labor Studies, http://depts.washington.edu/wtohist/Interviews/Interviews.htm.
29 From the website of Mobilization for Global Justice, http://sept.globalizethis.org (site visited 3/14/03).
When Starbucks opened its first store in Mexico in September 2002, it chose a site in the Sheraton Hotel on
Reforma Boulevard in Mexico City. This was Starbucks’ first store in Latin America and its first in an "origin
country," i.e., a coffee-producing country. An article on the Organic Consumers Association website describes
Starbucks’ Mexican flagship store:
The new Starbucks on Reforma features soft lighting and an aromatic ambiance. … Behind the counter, well-
groomed employees whip out the signature Frappuccinos and lattes. Indeed, the only jarring note is the 36
pesos ($3.60) the young woman at the register wants for a double latte, 10 times the price Indian farmers are
getting for a pound of their product in Chiapas, Oaxaca, and other coffee-rich states of southern Mexico. …
There is no starker contrast in the economics of coffee these days than between the cushy comforts and gourmet
blends of the Starbucks “Experiencia” and the grim, daily existence of 360,000 mostly Indian coffee farmers
who work small plots carved from the jungle mountains of southern Mexico.30
Multinational corporations and their supporters respond that the effects of--and solutions for--globalization are more
complicated than the critics contend. They note that multinationals create jobs, pay better prices and wages than
domestic firms, and conform to local
labor and environmental regulations.
The skeptics are right to be disturbed by sweatshops, child labour, bonded labour and the other gross abuses
that go on in many poor countries (and in the darkest corners of rich ones, too). But what makes people
vulnerable to these practices is poverty. … The more thoroughly these companies [multinationals] penetrate the
markets of the third world, the faster they introduce their capital and working practices, the sooner poverty will
retreat and the harder it will be for such abuses to persist.31
Moreover, multinationals argue, they have responded to the criticism of profit-driven behavior by developing
corporate codes of conduct, corporate social responsibility programs, and partnerships with non-governmental
organizations.32 They point out, however, that they are in a no-win situation vis-à-vis their critics, because they can
always be criticized for not doing enough.
Starbucks has found that global concerns often get mixed up with and intertwined with local issues. Even the mere
act of opening a Starbucks retail store in a neighborhood can result in local activism and community “push-back”
against the Starbucks brand. For example, when Starbucks opened a store in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1998,
picketers carrying signs that read, “Don’t Let Corporate Greed Destroy Our Neighborhood,” greeted it. A lawyer
who helps communities keep national chains out, says: “It’s part of the growing tension in the world between the
mass-market economy and people’s desire to retain self-control and some local culture. … If you’ve got a beef with
Starbucks, you’ve got a beef with capitalism.”33
Starbucks has faced a variety of “community push back” situations around the world. Soon Beng Yeap, one of
Starbucks’ International brand reputation managers, notes: “This [community push-back] is a live issue and
Starbucks manages each push-back incident case-by-case. In some markets [we] have gone in and in some [we]
have pulled out.” He cites two recent examples, one in London, where Starbucks decided to withdraw its efforts to
open a store after local activists actively campaigned against the firm, and the other in Beijing, where the firm
opened a store in an historic district, and, following subsequent and significant adverse comment reported in local
and international media, decided to stay put.
Primrose Hill and Starbucks’ Decision to Withdraw
30 John Ross, “The Unloving Cup,” December 12, 2002, Organic Consumers Association website,
31 “Grinding the Poor,” The Economist
, November 6, 1997.
32 For example, Starbucks’ Commitment to Origins
™ is a four-part Corporate Social Responsibility program that includes
offering Fair Trade certified coffee, organic certified coffee, Farm Direct (single-origin coffees purchased directly from the
farmer), and Conservation coffees (emphasizing shade-grown in partnership with the NGO Conservation International). See
33 Edward McMahon, quoted in “Brewing a Tempest In a Coffee Cup,” Christian Science Monitor
, February 25, 1998.