Seattle Coffee & Starbucks UK1997-1999
Swift and careful integration
After the first few conversions of Seattle Coffee stores into Starbucks in early 1998, we had lost a store manager, sales were down, and customers were unhappy. The store teams were worried and didn’t want to continue with conversions to what many perceived to be the McDonald’s of coffee. Our customers and staff loved our brand, and didn’t want to see it go.
I approached the Chief Executive (and founder) of SCC and expressed my concern about what would happen if we continued converting the rest of the 60+ stores the same way – and he asked me to fix it.
I built a small team from the operating areas of the business, gathered them in weekly 8 am meetings, and with their help built an inclusive process that helped managers be part of, and influence, this dramatic change to their working life. We replanned the remaining stores, making sure we had taken into account all the local factors that could influence a conversion’s success. Now, when a store was converted, it literally happened overnight. No delays, no closed stores, no disruption to a customer’s daily habits, and no time to worry or second guess the process. Managers were with us every step of the way and were in control of what happened to their stores.
By September 1998, all 58 remaining stores had been converted, and sales were flat or up in all of them. Shortly thereafter, the first new Starbucks opened on the Kings Road and the brand was established in the UK. I used what I’d learned from conversions to improve new store acquisitions, saving £30,000 per store and releasing time and resource for more openings to fuel Starbucks’ very aggressive growth ambitions.