I think it was timing.

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what made fairtrade successful? Starbucks.
what made starbucks successful?
Probably bringing those god awful 500+ calorie 20+ oz white mochas (and the huge markup price) to the American public's eye. Its not hard to sell a $4 white mocha to people that want overly sweet stuff: its also not hard to sell it when you only spend a small fraction of that to make the drink.
Timing and consistency.
Customers look for consistency in the product, a "Brand Name", and the ability to get it anywhere, anytime at a "Reasonable" price attracts a following (McDonalds, KFC etc.).
From a business point of view, the ability to sell a high margin product in high volumes is pure gold.
Starbucks saw an opening in the market and the rest is history.
They were able to have a monopoly in the café niche of America. They had no competition, because most Americans hadn't heard of lattés and cappucinos on a daily basis.

Now it's become a bloated monster in the way of mom and pop stores trying to do quality espresso. I appreciate the awareness they've brought to America, but they need to back off a bit if they want real coffee culture to develop.

Just a thought.

BTW, I like how in Canada the Tim Horton's petit café is a 9 oz. I'm sick of the American 12 oz small.
Timing for sure, consistency yes. But the whole making coffee a place to be was huge. Think about when they began to take off - early 90's - and how disenfranchised people were...The decade of greed was over and there were these nouveau-riche people with the BMW and the loft apt but a paucity of sociality and very few outlets. Some found Kurt Cobain or Ministry and maybe heroin. Most of them found lattes.

Without SB North America wouldn't be drinking $5/cup coffees...Let alone $8 single origin french presses.
Timing, and marketing. Period.
Timing had nothing to do with it. Schultz had a dream/vision and surrounded himself with people to hold him to create what "HE SAID" was possible and what he was commited too. Then, timing came into play.
Pasión de su fundador
Yeah, Ray, I am going to have to respectfully disagree with you. Timing WAS everything. He was the first "early bird" that had enough resources to carry it out. And at that time, people were looking for something like that, so, again, Timing, my friend. Then, marketing kicked in, and the rest is, unfortunately, history.
I don't think timing had anything to do with it.

If being 20 years late to the party makes you an "early bird", then where do we find ourselves now?

Well, you'd be hard pressed to find a serious coffee professional who thinks we are not in the infant stages of this industry.

What made them successful is the same thing that makes any growing company successful. Doing something better than the alternative options in their area.

It just happened that they were doing it better than a lot of places in a lot of areas, and to some extent, they still are. Most people didn't realize the potential of the model until after Starbucks had already created a pretty large presence.

First came the popularity, and then the quality (in regards to the massive scale we see now days... not to discredit those who were first like A. Peet and G. Howell.)

Is it the best? No. Is there better? Sure. Is it easy to find better? Well, now, that all depends on where you live, doesn't it?

The product quality has taken a fall since the inception of their retail concept, but when you are a publicly owned corporation, it's awfully difficult to put quality ahead of profits in the hierarchy of priorities.
I am interested in the topic
Their seems to be a lot of hostility towards Starbucks. I think it should be taken into consideration that without Starbucks the 3rd wave movement would not be as successful as it is. Name one group that has brought coffee to more people than Starbucks. Name one company that made hanging out in coffee shops the norm in North America more than Starbucks. I believe they helped create the niche that made room for 3rd wave coffee shops, and for that I am thankful.

Sorry for hijacking the thread. What made Starbucks successful? A combination of things. Marketing, product consistency, costumer service, are just a few.

Personally though I'm not really concerned with what Starbucks is doing. Why? Because they're concerned about what WE are doing.

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