Starbucks to double China stores in five years

Pedestrians walk past a Starbucks branch in the Luohu district of Shenzhen, China, in 2014.
Pedestrians walk past a Starbucks branch in the Luohu district of Shenzhen, China, in 2014.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK (AFP) - US coffeehouse chain Starbucks on Wednesday (Oct 19) announced a five-year goal of doubling the number of its stores in China, which could soon become its largest market.

Starbucks has seen rapid expansion in China, where it opened its first cafe 17 years ago. In 2011, the company had only 400 outlets but today has almost six times as many at 2,300.

By 2021, the company expects to have 5,000, it said in a statement. Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz has said China could one day become the coffee chain's largest market, overtaking the US where it has some 7,500 stores.

In a sign of its hopes for the Chinese market, Starbucks also said it was promoting Belinda Wong from president to chief executive of Starbucks China.

"She will be responsible for key areas, including the vast digital and e-commerce opportunities across the market and overseeing the opening of Starbucks first international Starbucks Roastery in Shanghai in 2017," the company said.

Wong had previously held various positions for the company in Starbucks China and the Asia-Pacific region.

Having faced difficulties in penetrating markets such as Australia, Starbucks increasingly is catering to local tastes rather than exporting products sold in the US.