Starbucks gains traction in bid to make China its largest market

Seattle-based coffee chain is opening a new outlet in China every 15 hours, as part of an effort to operate 5,000 stores across the mainland by 2021

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 8:58pm

The biggest Starbucks outlet worldwide enjoyed a blockbuster debut in Shanghai on Wednesday, with hundreds of customers spending about one hour queuing outside the store before getting served.

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery, located on Nanjing Road West, one of the city’s busiest shopping streets, opened at 7am before huge crowds flocked to the 30,000 square foot store at about 9:30am.

At about 11:30am, at least 300 people, most of whom aged between 20 and 40, were waiting outside the store.

“I don’t think it’s the coffee by Starbucks that sells,” said Ding Ziting, a customer in her early 20s. “But I like its culture and it’s worth spending about an hour to become the earliest customers to visit.”

Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks Corp said the store, the second of its kind around the globe, will support augmented reality (AR) technologies, enabling customers to learn more about the coffee preparation process, such as the craft of how beans are roasted.

Starbucks partnered with Alibaba Group Holding to create what it called an “immersive AR experience” for Shanghai customers.

The Shanghai outlet reflects the first time the coffee company will employ AR technologies to improve the customer experience.

The roastery will operate from 7am until 11pm daily.

Starbucks expecting huge crowds at opening of biggest ever store, in Shanghai on Wednesday

The outlet, which has about 400 employees, is capable of serving up to up to 550 customers at one time.

The opening reflects Starbucks’ ramped-up efforts to expand in the world’s second-largest economy, where same-store sales grew 8 per cent on average in the most recent quarter, compared to its global average of 2 per cent growth.

Kevin Johnson, chief executive of Starbucks, said on Tuesday at a press event in Shanghai that China would become the company’s biggest market within a decade.

Starbucks now has 3,000 stores in China and plans to boost the number to 5,000 by 2021.

The company said that a new store is opened on the mainland every 15 hours.

About 80 unique coffee and tea products are on offer at the Shanghai Roastery.

Dominating the store is a two-storey copper roasting cask adorned with more than 1,000 traditional Chinese chops, or stamps, narrating the story of Starbucks and coffee. It will also host the Teavana Bar – its first outlet in China specifically offering a range of Chinese teas.

“I am going to visit the store soon because I am curious about the things Starbucks offers at the big store,” said Zhou Bin. “But I need to avoid the busy hours to save time for queuing up.”

Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.