Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Nothing Special About Everywhere

The Arch
Originally uploaded by Vesuviano - Nicola De Pisapia

In 2002-2003 Missouri didn't have too many Starbucks. Living in Joplin, going to Starbucks was a treat because there were exactly zero here. Today, at last count, there are four Starbucks in Joplin.

I don't recall the first time I went to Starbucks, but I am sure it occurred in St. Louis on one of my countless trips there. My father was just beginning to experience a series of health issues that would eventually lead to a stroke that would cripple him to this day. He spent many days, weeks, and months at a time in Barnes-Jewish Hospital. On nights when I would stay there at the hospital, I would sometimes treat myself to some Starbucks. It became something I would look forward to. When you're couped up in a hospital all day and night, you learn to value an early morning excursion from time to time.

As the sun was rising, I would leave the hospital and ride the Metro into downtown St. Louis to the only Starbucks I knew of at the time. I would then sit down, sip on my cappuccino (this was before I discovered my raspberry green tea frappuccino), and relax for an hour or so. It was always a highlight during an otherwise stressful moment in life. Especially since I was only able to have this sort of enjoyment while in a larger city.

Today, Starbucks is everywhere. It is nothing special. It no longer has the same value to me that it did then. Why? It's the same reason that McDonald's, Burger King, and the Olive Garden aren't special. They're watered down chains that are everywhere. I wouldn't go out of my way to have a cappuccino from Starbucks today, because I can go there whenever I want. It's no longer a treat. It's just another chain to me, and I suspect to most people.

Starbucks announced today that they would be closing some 600 stores and cutting up to 12,000 jobs.

The economy may have a little to do with this, but I suspect it's more about their brand being watered down. When something can be seen and had at every turn (literally), people tend to lose interest. There's nothing special about being everywhere.


Clayboy said...

Absolutely right. Brand dilution and competition are two of the major problems. Starbucks is scared to death of all the newcomers - Dunkin' Donuts and 7-11 to begin with, and now McDonald's, Jack In The Box, Sonic, etc. are all joining suit by carrying specialty coffee drinks. Combined with the fact that Starbucks is like the coffee-shop version of an ATM and you've got a recipe for corporate disaster. Furthermore, I'm convinced that Starbucks is failing because they are neglecting their core: coffee drinkers. They are paying lip service to the real coffees, while trying to expand and expand and expand their menu to include such foolishness as "energy drinks" and those stupid frappuccinos, which absolutely ruin the coffee-house atmosphere every time they fire up the blenders. Isn't coffee already THE original energy drink? Come on.

Andrew Weaver said...

"... the coffee-shop version of an ATM..." Excellent observation.

Excellent comment altogether. I don't think I need to elaborate. You said it.