Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I love when it's different, but it's just not the same

Starbucks, everyone's favourite identikit room where they sell coffee, is testing the water with an interesting new strategy. The problem, as they see it, is that they like the fact they have, with three or four others, the market sewn up but that not everyone likes monopolies. Sad to say some people aren't even that keen on Starbucks.

So they asked themselves what would be a good way to protect their market share, during difficult economic circumstances, but also ensure people don't feel too boxed in by a company who in many towns and cities, Cambridge not the least of them, will have side by side Starbucks franchises all selling identically standard fare at comfortingly identical prices.

Washing Powder company(ies) had it right when they launched identical products under a number of different names. You walk into the supermarket and you have a choice. Do you want bluey white or whitey blue? Lemon fresh, or hint of the forest? It's like some sort of washing powder utopia now isn't it? Choice, choice, choice without the inconvenience of having lots of different companies competing with each other because it goes to the same conglomerate.

Those wiseacres at Starbucks have watched and learned. Now they are going to do some of their own sleight of brand. Starbucks are opening the first of their new stores masquerading under new names for a more "community personality" - for those of us who like our international capitalism a little more homey.

Some curmudgeons have branded the move as 'stealth Starbucks' as the first of these cafes opens, "15th Avenue Coffee and Tea" which boasts of poetry readings and events. This is soon to be followed by a series of others with location specific names by way of an experiment. All Starbucks, but with none of the liberal guilt.

Soon the high street will be able to simulate that independent shop goodness that we all crave without ditching those gorgeous 'too big too fail' monopoly enterprises. It's also a neat trick when you can lay people off and open new stores at the same time. God bless those legal loopholes.


weggis said...

Starbucks or Pub? No choice!

Mind you if they start doing Pie 'n Mash and jellied eels I might just venture in.

Benjamin Solah said...

Woah, kind of sinister but hardly surprising.

A coffee chain from Australia, Gloria Jeans is owned by Hillsong, a right-wing Christian Fundamentalist church (that my sister is a member of) and they have a store in Newtown, Sydney which is a trendy middle-class suburb full of hippies and liberals.

That Gloria Jeans store was forced to separate itself and become independent due to a back lash from residents but I suspect it could be a cover just like you've stated with Starbucks.