Consumer responses to the impact of Starbucks on local economies


"In American metropolitan settings, a coffee shop is more or less like Starbucks in much the same way a fast-food restaurant is more or less like McDonalds or a theme park is more or less like Disney World," say the authors of a new study published in the December 2004 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

The authors of the article, Craig Thompson and Zeynep Arsel of the University of Wisconsin--Madison, discuss how the introduction of Starbucks, a megalithic and international coffee house, has both fueled much anti-big-business sentiment at the same time as it has helped local markets and even independent coffee houses by defining the idea of a coffee house as a place to dwell--somewhere between a private and public space and called a "third-place" by the authors.

"The Starbucks revolution has crystallized and propagated a particular kind of third-place experience (coffee shop patronage); it has shaped cultural expectations and ideals about what coffee shops should be. Despite recurrent charges of destroying local competition, in the United States at least, local coffee shops are riding on Starbucks' caffeinated wake," the authors explain.

Yet, Thompson and Arsel acknowledge that just as Starbucks may have had a hand in greasing the gears of the coffee market for others and creating this third-place for Americans to hang out, it has also come under intense fire from activists who cite "predatory business practices and a plethora of deleterious effects on the local coffee trade, the environment, and the economic well-being of coffee growers." They even cite the phrase "Frankenbucks" as emblematic of the animosity that some feel towards this American coffee house giant.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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