Apple and Starbucks in Chengdu, China: Fast Growing Largest Inland Economy (2)
May 6, 2015
Starbucks in Chengdu, Sichuan Province
Finding Starbucks is not difficult in Chengdu as long as you stay close enough to downtown areas. As of early May, there are 64 Starbucks stores available in the province, mostly located in Chengdu (according to Store Locator on Starbucks China website). One of the popular Starbucks stores in the city is probably the one in Kuanzhaixiangzi Alleys (宽窄巷子 ). This store is specially decorated with Chinese tradition and nicely located in the heart of tourists’ spot. Every tourist, including foreigners, who finds this store, pulls out her iPhone to snap a photo of this beautiful Chinese tradition-imbedded store. Inside the store, there are a couple of dozens of the tables and couches available for customers to sit back and relax while the second floor offers nice views of garden and alleys from the balcony.
There is another tradition-yielded Starbucks store that you might want to visit. The store is also located in the Jilin Ancient Street or alley right next to Temple of Marquis. Though it is not easy to find the store, the temple, however, is famously known among tourists as well as local taxi drivers, so your way to get there is just to hail a taxi on the street. Once you get to the temple, you can enjoy the vast garden of the temple to explore a long Chinese history or you can just simply head to the alleys, which are located just side of the temple and there are always huge human traffic between the entrance of the temple and the alleys. It is a beautifully decorated garden-equipped store but unfortunately the Chinese customers tend to smoke in the garden.
These two Starbucks stores nicely enhance tourists, including foreigners, how Starbucks is trying to connect with the Chinese tradition. Once before, the Chinese had criticized the Starbucks store in the China’s most historical Forbidden City, which they believed the company was infringing on its imperial culture. Soon later, the company had decided to close the store after tremendous public pressure arose. You do not see such news nowadays and that is probably because Starbucks is trying to honor each local culture while respecting China’s tradition.
Like Chongqing, various places in Chengdu, including the alleys, offer delicious, but spicy, Xiaochi, the small snacks, at local prices (Also read: “Apple and Starbucks in Chongqing, China: Price-Sensitive Inland Consumers”). As Sichuan province’s regional per capita GDP is not really impressive compared to Shanghai or even compared to neighboring Chongqing, Starbucks’ drinks are relatively expensive for them. However, Chengdu people seem to seek modernity than Chongqing people do. That is probably because Chengdu is turning global while the city has welcomed United’s new route from San Francisco last summer.
When you step into one of Starbucks stores available in the city in the afternoon or evening, stores are nicely packed with local customers. Many customers in the stores tend to enjoy new iPhone 6 in hand while having Grande-sized Caramel Frappuccino or so. As always in China, Starbucks customers tend to fall into an upper middle-income category, which their income levels are relatively higher than the national average, enough to attain a new iPhone 6 with a one-month salary. Average income levels in global cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing, have already reached an upper middle-income level, but the income gap, on the other hand, seems higher. As Chengdu is becoming global, more and more people are getting out of the middle-income trap while its income gap is probably widening.
Thanks to Sichuan province’s huge population of 81 million, the number of people, who are reaching the upper middle-income level in the near future, should be higher. Importantly, the average 17 percent growth of Sichuan province’s regional per capita GDP over past nine years, which is twice faster than Shanghai’s, cannot easily ignored. While Starbucks ‘s business in Shanghai may have reached the mid-inning of the ball game, inland cities, like Chengdu, is probably still in the very early innings.
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