Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Star(bucks) Is Losing a LIttle of Its Shine

I guess this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise during somewhat of an economic downturn, but it was still weird to read this story: Starbucks plans to close 600 of its U.S. locations in the near future. Despite concerns about oversaturation in some markets, the company is not blaming that for the closures; rather, it's attributing it to the sluggish economy (which makes sense; people who have to buy more $4 gas may have less room in their wallets for as many $4 lattes as usual).

No specific locations have been announced yet, but most of the stores to be closed are 1) underperforming (duhh), 2) opened within the past two years, and 3) located close to another company-owned store. I have no clue if this will affect any of the ones in my neighborhood (which is now nicely Starbucked just a few short years after not having any at all within two miles), but they all seem to be doing well (and one of them is actually a Barnes and Noble Cafe and thus isn't company-owned). I wonder if Preston and Park in Plano, which has Starbucks on three of the four corners, will be affected.

Whatever happens, it's weird to think about a Starbucks closing; the only time I've ever seen that happen was when an entire shopping center got redeveloped. Even though some people consider them to be an evil empire along the lines of Wal-Mart, I've been a fan ever since they came to Texas in the mid-'90s. It's a great place to meet up with friends, grade papers, or even do some solitary reading, and it's one of the best "safe" places that the under-21 crowd can go to at night. (And for small, independent businesspeople--not to mention recruiters, Realtors, etc.--it serves as a nice temporary office with "rent' as low as the cost of a tall drip.)

Sure, it's hard to get a gig at a Starbucks most of the time (though the second post on this blog dealt with a time when I came very close to having one, and I would succeed in that about a week later), and maybe, if there is a location to be closed in this area, it can be reborn as an independent coffeehouse that has live music; one can only hope.

And don't forget--it's been shown that the presence of Starbucks in a market actually helps independent coffeehouses by getting the locals excited about upscale coffee drinking. They may take a piece of the mom-and-pop store's pie, but not before making the pie bigger overall.

It's not like the company is headed down the tubes or anything; they're still planning on opening new stores, but they'll be a bit more selective about it now. Still, it was surprising to see that the mighty giant isn't totally invincible.

But here's a dining idea that I hope won't take off: The Krispy Kreme bacon cheesburger. (As the lolcats might say, "You can has. DO NOT WANT.")

These monkeys must have tried the above already: Some Rhesus monkeys in a Japanese park are being put on a crash diet because they're too fat (probably from being fed by park visitors as well as their own handlers).

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