When three friends in Seattle decided to open the first Starbucks in 1971, they probably did not realize it was the beginning of a new American success story. In 40 years time, the company with the twin-tailed mermaid logo has grown to become the biggest coffee retailer with 17,000 Starbucks stores worldwide, employing more than 142,000 people. The core business company sells a wide range of cups of coffee, but the multinational has also increased its sales opportunities : in each Starbucks coffeehouse, you can find tea, cookies, salads, sandwiches and pastries and also many unedible tie-in products, such as mugs or espresso machines. Now the company is competing with McDonald’s for selling coffee, but Starbucks, with its costumers' sixteen times a month visit, stays the most popular.
Starbucks’ success to secure customer loyalty has mainly relied on its personalized relationship with the former. For example, everyone can contribute to the development of new products by expressing his or her opinions and feelings on ‘mystarbucksidea.com’. In this way people do not just drink a cup of coffee at Starbucks, they also experience a new way of consuming by entertainment. In all its coffeehouses, the company provides its customers with free wifi-network and access to newspapers. Furthermore, an exclusive selection of music, films and books is available in the stores. Thus Starbucks has set up its Bookish Reading Club, where you can pre-read for free a selection of books, before possibly purchasing them in the coffeehouse. That is why the store is more than just a place selling beverages. In fact, the coffeehouse is designed to be a «third place», namely one between home and work. Starbucks’ philosophy can therefore be summarized in its motto: “We’re not in the coffee business serving people…We’re in the people business serving coffee.”
The company has nevertheless changed habits, leading to a «Starbuckization» of the American society. Its customers are ready to pay much more than before for a cup of coffee. Starbucks has also revised the coffee tastes by raising the quality standards and influenced the urban streetscapes, opening coffeehouses on many American corners. Through the special arrangement of the stores, Starbucks has an impact on how people meet and how they consume.
However, the multinational was the target in various ethical and environmental scandals, even if since a few years, the company has changed its practices. The firm really wants to show progress in this field in deciding to recycle all its cups by 2015 and so becomes the biggest retailer of fair-trade coffee in North America. As a result, the Ethisphere Magazine has appointed Starbucks as one of the ‘2010 Most Ethical Companies’.