Starbucks to double rate of store openings |

Starbucks to double rate of store openings

Bloomberg News

BEIJING – Starbucks Corp. plans to more than double the rate at which it opens stores to an average of more than one a day during the next 12 months, as the global economy recovers.

“Our ability to navigate through the financial crisis and come out much stronger gives us reason to start growing the company again,” Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz said Friday in an interview in China’s Yunnan province. He plans to open 500 stores in the fiscal year that began in October, with 400 outside the United States, he said.

China, which offers the best opportunities for investment over the next year according to a Bloomberg survey, will be Starbucks’ biggest growth market in two years, Schultz said. Jinlong Wang, the restaurant operator’s China chief, said outlets in the world’s most populous nation will exceed 1,000 in the “near future.”

Coffee chain operators are expanding in the world’s fastest-growing major economy, as increasingly affluent consumers buy more beverages in coffee shops. Starbucks, the world’s biggest coffee chain, seeks to boost coffee consumption in China, which is at an annual 22 grams per person, compared with an estimated 3.3 kilograms in Japan, according to data from roaster Key Coffee Inc.

Still, Schultz said “one needs to continue to be mindful of the fragile nature of the global economy.”

While 39 percent of 1,030 investors in the latest Bloomberg Global Poll said they were “seeing opportunity and taking more risks,” 35 percent said they were “still hunkering down.”

China topped the list of markets that offered investors the best opportunities over the next year, followed by Brazil, India and the U.S., according to the survey.

“I think the opportunity that we have in China – we’ve underestimated it in terms of the number of stores and the reach that Starbucks is going to have,” Schultz said.

The restaurant chain’s planned store-opening rate will be the highest since the 2008 fiscal year, when it opened 1,669 stores, according to its website. The Seattle-based company closed 45 stores in fiscal year 2009 and opened 223 in fiscal year 2010, which ended Oct. 3.

Schultz didn’t specify how many stores he planned to open in China over the next 12 months.