Starbucks Sets Ball Rolling On Italian (Con)Quest

01-Mar-2016 - Italy

Global coffee chain retailer Starbucks is treating its quest for gaining foothold in the land, which boasts of the original coffee culture, as a humble move. Would it appeal to the coffee connoisseurs, who pride themselves in being the best in business? Only time will tell when the U.S. company sets up shop in Milan, an Italian city, in 2017 along with real estate developer Percassi. 

It should be considered as a natural corollary for a company that found inspiration from the country for its large scale expansion into the global arena. Way back in the 1980s, CEO Howard Schultz's business trip to Milan and Verona inspired him to introduce the Espresso, a coffee prepared by directing small quantities of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans, in the U.S. 

The Seattle, Washington based-company founded in 1971, which thus far had a largely mundane existence, with just a few outlets in mostly its native city, began to foray into other regional and international markets. 

What is so special about having an Italian connection when the company is expanding by leaps and bounds in the rest of the globe?

This becomes more of a conundrum for analysts, who have harped about the lukewarm reception it has got in the rest of the European countries it has established itself in. 

Though Starbucks operates in roughly 20 countries in Europe, roughly a little over 10 percent of the outlets are located in the geography with the acronym EMEA, which also includes the Middle East and Africa. China is touted as its thrust market by the top management , with the retailer opening roughly 500 stores a year in the world's hot-and-happening economy. 

Italians with their refined tastes and coffee houses of the country that are a coffee aficionado's delight could prove a challenge for the successful coffee chain retailer. However, if the company is successful in drawing the Italians favorably towards it, it will be a victory of sorts. 

It remains to be seen if the Italians thaw and embrace Starbucks with a 'Benvenuti in Italia' phrase or treat it with the contempt for intruding into an arena, which is their prerogative. Until then, it is a 'wait and watch' move.Heading into 2017, for Starbucks, all roads will lead to Rome, as it strives to carve a niche for itself in the uncharted territory.

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