The ‘un-Starbucks’ Starbucks

After years of growth and success, Starbucks, like many companies, is facing tough times with falling profits, fewer customers, store closures and worker layoffs.  Over-expansion has resulted in a “watered down” experience and turned off many customers, even in its hometown of Seattle.

To bring back customers and revive its brand, the company is testing a new concept in Seattle – rebranding (or de-branding) several of its existing stores.  In April 2009, Starbucks opened the “15th Avenue Coffee & Tea” store in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and although it “shares the Starbucks mission and values,” you may never know you are in a Starbucks.  There are no green siren logos, no promotional signs, no Starbucks mugs and no green aprons.   Everything from the menu, which includes alcoholic drinks, to the interior is different.

The idea is to create a store with a “community personality.” 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea reuses things from the past and reworks them so customers can re-explore the traditional coffeehouse spirit and coffee for which Starbucks was first known.  By turning back to basics, the company hopes to draw a new urban crowd that frequents Seattle’s independent coffeehouses and bring back customers who may have stopped visiting Starbucks as it became more and more of a corporate chain.  The store regularly offers musical performances, poetry readings and daily coffee and tea “cuppings,” all things you might expect to find at your local coffeehouse.  Starbucks also opened the “Roy Street Coffee & Tea” and plans to test the concept stores before possibly expanding to other cities.

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