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Revised June 30, 1997

Starbucks Corporation (A)

Starbucks Corporation is a Seattle, Washington-based coffee company. It roasts and sells whole bean coffees and coffee drinks through a national chain of retail outlets/restaurants. Originally only a seller of packaged, premium, roasted coffees, the bulk of the company's revenues now comes from its coffee bars’ where people can purchase beverages and pastries in addition to coffee by the pound. Starbucks is credited with changing the way Americans view coffee, and its success has attracted the attention of investors nationwide.

Starbucks has consistently been one of the fastest growing companies in the United States with over 1,006 retail outlets in 1996. Over a five-year period starting in 1991, net revenues increased at a compounded annual growth rate of 61 percent. In fiscal 1996, net revenues increased 50 percent to $696 million from $465 million for the same period the previous year (see Exhibit 1). Net earnings rose 61 percent to $42 million from the previous year’s $26 million. Sales for Starbucks have been continuing to grow steadily, and the company is still a darling of investors with a PE ratio of 58.

To continue to grow at a rapid pace, the firm’s senior executives have been considering international expansion. Specifically, they are interested in Japan and other Asian countries, where Starbucks had little or no presence. Japan, the world’s third largest coffee consumer after the United States and Germany, represented both a challenge and a huge opportunity to the firm. To explore what changes in Starbucks strategy were required, and the questions that might arise during expansion, this case looks at the firm’s entry strategy into Japan and the nature of issues facing the firm during early 1997.

The Company Background

In 1971, three Seattle entrepreneursвЂ"Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon BowkerвЂ"started selling whole-bean coffee in Seattle's Pike Place Market. They named their store Starbucks, after the first mate in Moby Dick. By 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 housewares 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 the company. Schultz, 29 and recently married, was eager to leave New York. He joined Starbucks as manager of retail sales and marketing.

This case was prepared by Melissa Schilling and Assistant Professor Suresh Kotha, both from the University of Washington, Business School of Administration, as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation. Copyright Ð'© 1997 Kotha & Schilling. All rights reserved.

A year later, Schultz visited Verona, Italy for the first time on a buying trip. As he strolled through the piazzas of Milan one evening, he was inspired by a vision. He noticed that coffee was an integral part of the romantic culture in Italy; Italians start their day at an espresso bar, and later in the day return with their friends. (For a history of the coffeehouse, see Exhibit 2.) 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, romantic place to enjoy it. Enthusiastic about his idea, Schultz returned to tell Starbucks’ owners of his plan for a national chain of cafes stylized on the Italian coffee bar. The owners, however, were less enthusiastic and did not want to be in the restaurant business. Undaunted, Schultz wrote a business plan, videotaped dozens of Italian coffee bars 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, Schultz opened a second coffee bar in Seattle, and then a third in Vancouver. In 1987, the owners of Starbucks agreed to sell 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 expansion. In 1987 he entered Chicago, four years later he opened in Los Angeles and in 1993 he entered the District of Columbia. Additionally, he hired executives away from corporations such as PepsiCo. At first, the company's losses almost doubled, to $1.2 million from fiscal 1989 to 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." In 1991 sales shot up 84 percent, and the company turned profitable. In 1992 Schultz took the firm public at $17 a share.

Always, believing that market share and name recognition are critical to the company’s success, Schultz continued to expand the business rather aggressively. Notes Schultz, “There is no secret sauce here. Anyone can do it.” To stop potential copycats, he opened 100 new stores in 1993, and another 145 in 1994. Additionally, he acquired the Coffee Connection, a 25-store Boston chain in 1994.

Everywhere Starbucks has opened, customers have flocked to pay upwards of $1.85 for a cup of coffee (latte). Currently, the firm operates stores in most of the major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Canada, including Seattle, New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Portland, Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Denver, Toronto, and Vancouver B.C. Its mail-order business serves customers throughout the United States. Enthusiastic financial analysts predict that Starbucks could top $1 billion by the end of the decade (see Appendix A).

In 1996, Starbucks employed approximately 16,600 individuals, including approximately 15,000 in retail stores and regional offices, and the remainder in the firm’s administrative, sales, real estate, direct response, roasting, and warehousing operations. Only



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