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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Rise and Fall

posted by on October 22 at 9:45 AM


This neat little article convincingly corresponds the recent expansion and contraction of Starbucks with the real estate boom and bust that triggered the current economic crisis:

This recent crisis has its roots in the unhappy coupling of a frenzied nationwide real-estate market centered in California, Las Vegas, and Florida, and a nationwide credit mania centered in New York. If you could pick one brand name that personified these twin bubbles, it was Starbucks. The Seattle-based coffee chain followed new housing developments into the suburbs and exurbs, where its outlets became pit stops for real-estate brokers and their clients. It also carpet-bombed the business districts of large cities, especially the financial centers, with nearly 200 in Manhattan alone. Starbucks’ frothy treats provided the fuel for the boom, the caffeine that enabled deal jockeys to stay up all hours putting together offering papers for CDOs, and helped mortgage brokers work overtime processing dubious loan documents. Starbucks strategically located many of its outlets on the ground floors of big investment banks. (The one around the corner from the former Bear Stearns headquarters has already closed.)


Like American financial capitalism, Starbucks, fueled by the capital markets, took a great idea too far (quality coffee for Starbucks, securitization for Wall Street) and diluted the experience unnecessarily (subprime food such as egg-and-sausage sandwiches for Starbucks, subprime loans for Wall Street). Like so many sadder-but-wiser Miami condo developers, Starbucks operated on a “build it and they will come” philosophy. Like many of the humiliated Wall Street firms, the coffee company let algorithms and number-crunching get the better of sound judgment: If the waiting time at one Starbucks was over a certain number of minutes, Starbucks reasoned that an opposite corner could sustain a new outlet. Like the housing market, Starbucks peaked in the spring of 2006 and has since fallen precipitously.

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Starbucks' crash also coincides pretty closely with Howard Schultz et. al. selling the Sonics to Oklahoma City. Bad karma, perhaps?

Posted by Betsy Ross | October 22, 2008 10:00 AM

unfortunately those breakfast sammies were the only reason I'd go to starbucks.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 22, 2008 10:18 AM

the picture upsets me.

Posted by MEC | October 22, 2008 10:19 AM

@3 You're a pussy.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 22, 2008 10:21 AM

Stumptown coffee is delicious.

Posted by jackie treehorn | October 22, 2008 10:35 AM

What the fuck? I don't see how Starbucks sandwiches were any more subprime than Jack in the Box. I really thought the spinach florentine with harvarti and roasted red pepper was good. Then again, it was probably because my boss used to give me Starbucks gift cards every other month.

Posted by 2 please | October 22, 2008 11:01 AM

The thing is, you can parallel this with Microsoft - initial expansion into an untapped market is always met by other competitors who end up offering cheaper and better products and services to compete with you (e.g. Linux / Mac).

Patents are intended to give you a grace period, but business processes throughout the world are not patentable (except here in Socialist Amerika).

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 22, 2008 11:02 AM


Starbucks has sun dried tomato on wholewheat.
Jack in the Box has a huge bowl with every breakfast ingredient dumped into it

ummmmm ya.

Posted by Non | October 22, 2008 11:05 AM

@6: If you live and work downtown you can find a Starbucks by walking one block in any direction. Where is the closest Jack in the Box? I used to go to Starbucks for the sandwiches pretty often. Now I never go there.

Posted by Mikki | October 22, 2008 11:08 AM

You're losing out, then. They reversed their decision on the breakfast sandwiches and are still selling them. DOH!

Posted by leek | October 22, 2008 11:21 AM

It wasn't "frothy treats" keeping the deal jockeys and mortgage brokers up all hours.

Posted by crazycatguy | October 22, 2008 11:22 AM

Everybody wants/needs a nearby place to get coffee. That's like saying bathrooms fueled the real estate boom.

Posted by Joe M | October 22, 2008 11:27 AM

Another parallel can be drawn:

"Like so many sadder-but-wiser Miami condo developers, [Sound Transit] operated on a “build it and they will come” philosophy."

All those promised ridership numbers for 2030? As ephemeral as cappucino froth . . ..

Posted by horsense | October 22, 2008 11:40 AM

@8, Thanks for that. How are you feeling?

Posted by onewink3 | October 22, 2008 12:12 PM

MEC @3: the picture upsets me.

I'm just wondering where Charles came across that photo. I mean, Charles's post has a better illustration than the original article.

Posted by cressona | October 22, 2008 12:48 PM

when I read that article on monday I thought its arguments were so flimsy and poorly reasoned that it was intended to be a parody.

Posted by josh | October 22, 2008 1:59 PM

@12, the general public was not chugging 16oz lattes every day until Starbucks came along and created the market. people have been going to the bathroom for, well, forever.

Posted by henry | October 22, 2008 2:07 PM

""Like so many sadder-but-wiser Miami condo developers..." philosophy.""

Let's get something straight, Miami condo developers are many things. 'Wiser' is not one of them. Ever.
They are merely restrained for a period of time. And then, like Jason, they return.

Posted by Agent of Chaos | October 23, 2008 1:52 AM

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