One Short Black

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Like many people, I didn’t know whether to feel sorrow or amusement when Starbucks came to Australia 5 or 6 years ago and opened a store in Lygon Street, of all places. Every afternoon I would stroll down the pavement past the bustling tables outside all the caf├ęs, and then pass through the dead, sucking void where Starbucks had set up shop.
It seemed like it never had more than three punters in it: a middle-aged American couple, and a Japanese tourist wearing hip-hop gear. Was I deluding myself into thinking that the international chain of overpriced crap coffee was doomed to failure in Melbourne? Was I overestimating the ability to resist the millions of dollars’ worth of pressure the corporation could use to grind down the competition and the public, year after year?
Starbucks will close 70% of its Australian stores and slash more than half of its workforce…
Across the country, the company’s 84 cafes closed yesterday at 2pm…. Although the list of the stores to be closed has not been released, it is believed the controversial Starbucks shop in Lygon Street, Carlton, is among them….
Starbucks president Howard Schultz ruled out closing other stores internationally and cited “challenges unique to the Australian market”. Retail analyst Barry Urquhart said Starbucks failed in Australia in part “because they didn’t understand and respect the unique and differing characteristics of the Australian coffee consumer”.
  1. I've been to Starbucks once and that was enough. I'm not even that much of a coffee snob but I couldn't stomach the swill they served up.

    Btw (and ott), have you heard about this?

  2. I've been to a few Starbucks around the world and the coffee is not very good. Some Australian companies have set up good quality chains e.g. Cibo before Starbucks arrived and they serve very good coffee. Starbucks just looks bad in comparison. In most Australian major cities there are many good, non franchised, cafes serving expresso so that Starbucks just can't compete.

  3. Starbucks are just as awful everywhere: burnt, watery, overpriced. I never went to a Hudson's Coffee in Melbourne but it looks like those guys beat Starbucks to the punch with their own, local adaptation of the idea.

    It's an indictment of how lousy British coffee is that Londoners simply can't get enough of Starbucks. It's interesting how the company is saying they're scaling back overseas trade only in Australia.

    Interesting re the Eno/Byrne thing, but I can't help thinking (a) what good have they done lately? and (b) subtle recasting of Talking Heads as an E/B collaboration.

  4. A bit harsh. Brian Eno has been producing some pretty decent albums of late. Although DB's latest work is not that great (IMHO). I saw DB live a few years ago. Once in a life time – the Talking Heads song – was the highlight but there was a signficant amount of filler. Brian Eno's Music for Films is probably one of my all time favourite albums. A number of the tracks are listed in my iPods most played tracks along with several Flaming Lips songs. The free down load of their latest colaboration is enjoyable

  5. Yeah, I still love me some Eno and/or Byrne, but I heard a whole bunch of that last Eno album of songs on the radio a while back (along with an interview), and it was cringingly bad. He does not do earnest well! (Neither does Byrne, for that matter.)