Society and independent retailers

I was in the city (Melbourne) Friday night and had a space five minutes so I went to a Starbucks for a coffee. (I’d have gone elsewhere but time was short and Starbucks was the closest to the venue I was attending.) Once inside the store, I could have been anywhere. There was nothing about the experience which was local or Australian. What did I expect?

Brands like Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC and the like exist to provide a common experience across the globe. That’s their appeal to many consumers and landlords. Nothing wrong with that. It’s business. I’d suggest that in a societal sense, though, they add nothing. My Starbucks experience elicited mediocre coffee delivered with barely average service and all for a price higher than the coffee shops where I live and where I work. In those places I get a local connect: conversation, personal service, appreciation and unpredictability – who wants everything to be the same every time?

It is one thing to lament the risk to our culture as a result of growth by groups like Starbucks and another entirely to act on this risk. Independent retailers and other small businesses need to be smarter in supporting each other. We need to be disciplined in this. Otherwise we risk less of us and more Starbucks and who can stomach such mediocre coffee?

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