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Saturation in the U.S. market led Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) to trim its number of stores during a yearlong downsizing. The global recession also forced many of its customers to curb their spending and shift to less costly competitors like McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) and Caribou (Nasdaq: CBOU ) .
But Starbucks needn't worry. The company has created a niche for itself as a premium, high-quality coffee provider with a strong customer base. It dominates the segment and has no close rivals. Starbucks has 17,000 outlets all over the world, with almost 11,000 domestically, and now the company has decided to open 200 new stores and remodel 1,700 old ones at home, with sales from its U.S. business growing at a decent 8% clip. But perhaps even more importantly, Starbucks is planning to expand its reach in untapped foreign markets, catering to potentially lucrative niches in Asia and Europe.
Starbucks has around 6,000 stores outside the United States -- having added 334 in the past three quarters -- and they're growing at a 5% rate. But these stores contribute only 20% to the company's total revenue, so there's ample room for growth here. Initially, Starbucks plans to focus on the growing Asian market before gradually moving its focus to the European continent, where places like France and Germany drink a lot of coffee but remain underserved. Germany, in fact, ranks second in the world in coffee consumption. Of course, the challenge for Starbucks will be to cater to the varying tastes and needs peculiar to each region, and its success will depend a lot on how well it adapts.
With its huge success in the U.S., Starbucks is well poised to go all guns blazing into the rest of the world. Should the company get its finger on the pulse of the markets it enters, the opportunity will be immense.