For many years here in Seattle, a newish/smallish coffee chain called Seattle’s Best Coffee (SBC) was said to choose its locations based on Starbucks.  Supposedly (and I do think this was the case), SBC figured that Starbucks was so successful and so stacked with smart location-choosing people, that SBC’s best location-choosing strategy would be to simply mimic Starbucks. If Starbucks opened somewhere, that location had to be good for a coffee shop, so SBC would open on the same corner or across the street. Its thinking was that would be a good location and once people got there, they would choose the better coffee: SBC’s. Starbucks eventually purchased SBC.

Might that strategy make sense for China, but on a grander scale?  A reader asked me that question today and sent me a link to a Chinese language site called linkshop, that sets out the number of Starbucks stores per city in China.  The site also lists a number of other coffee shops per Chinese city as well.

So my thinking is that there has to be at least some connection between the number of Starbucks (and even other coffee shops and the “readiness” of that Chinese cities for Western companies, at least Western retail companies.  Am I wrong to assume that if a Chinese city is ready for a large number of Starbucks, it is also ready for other Western retailers?  I also think there has to be at least some correlation between a city’s having a Starbucks (or even a lot of Starbucks) and its livability for Westerners. Do you agree? And might it even be the case that those cities with a disproportionate number of Starbucks as compared to competitor stores (such as Xi’an, Ningb0 and Dongguan) are the exact cities at which Western retailers should be looking as they are ready for, yet under-served by Western retailers? Is there anything here that can or should be used to determine where to locate your China retail store?

Anyway, based on my totally off the cuff theories, I present to you, in translation, the list of Starbucks in each city in China, followed by the total of other “name-brand” coffee shops (McCafé/Costa Coffee/Pacific Coffee/Jamaica Blue/Lavazza Expression/Versus Versace) in those same cities,

  • Shanghai: 142/282
  • Beijing: 91/197
  • Guangzhou: 41/103
  • Shenzhen: 47/107
  • Chengdu: 22/35
  • Hangzhou: 20/32
  • Chongqing: 16/22
  • Tianjin: 15/48
  • Nanjing: 12/33
  • Qingdao: 12/21
  • Dongguan: 11/15
  • Suzhou: 10/16
  • Ningbo: 10/13
  • Xi’an: 10/11
  • Xiamen: 9/18
  • Shenyang: 7/20
  • Dalian: 7 /16
  • Jinan: 5/11
  • Foshan: 4/14

Or am I off base with all my theories?