Starbucks in China: Shanghai Branches
This post in the series of Starbucks in China is about my initial impressions of branches of Starbucks in Shanghai, China.
Disclaimer: I have only been to four of the seemingly endless branches of Starbucks in Shanghai, and only had coffee in three of them (I am going to start making coffee at home to cut out this luxury expense, although I always go with coffee of the day/week). Hence, this is not a representative sample.
The first thing to know about Starbucks in China (from a business standpoint) is that Starbucks in different locations are largely run by different China partners. Recently, this has changed considerably, as Starbucks, the parent company, has bought back almost all of their stores in China (see here for more on this story), and will likely change some aspects of the way various Starbucks are run. If so, I would recommend looking to the Starbucks locations in Shenzhen as a prime example of how to do business.
Shanghai is the lone stand-out: It has not yet been brought under direct control of Starbucks. It might stand to benefit if it were.
What, exactly, is ‘wrong’ with the Starbucks locations in Shanghai in comparison with other Starbucks locations in China (or at least in Shenzhen per my experience)? A good bit:
- Mediocre Locations
- Lackluster Designs
- Small Stores
- The Small Stuff
I have yet to see a flat out great location of a Starbucks in Shanghai. Shenzhen, by my experience, is better in this regard. They for the most part choose the most trafficked locations in Shenzhen. In Shanghai this is not the case for the handful of stores I have stumbled upon.
The lighting is lacking in some Starbucks locations in Shanghai. The seating and layout of the stores truly lags that of stores in Shenzhen. In Shenzhen, Starbucks feels like a luxury. In Shanghai, it feels like Starbucks back in the States (not bad, but why not better?). Design is one thing, space is another:
Starbucks stores in China are very small by mainland China Starbucks’ standards. This is my impression thus far, although Starbucks in Shenzhen are rather large (most of them). The larger the store, the better, as it provides more of a “Starbucks experience”, and a kind of home away from home, or at least semi-office away from your China flat.
The Small Stuff
Okay, now you will think I am crazy or really picky, but why not have cream in a thermos like skim milk and whole milk? I noticed that the little extras in Shanghai are just not quite as nice.
Initial Impressions of Starbucks in Shanghai
Remember that these are just initial impressions, subject to change as my time here wears on. I am one of those who believes that initial impressions are often pretty close to the reality, and sometimes can reveal things you forget later on, or become immune to. Like cream. Also, realize that some of the strengths I mentioned about Starbucks in China in previous articles probably remain true for Starbucks locations in Shanghai. Yet it is obvious, from initial impressions, that Starbucks locations in Shanghai don’t have the category killer status they do have in Shenzhen.