Starbucks aims to double its store count in Thailand to 400 over next five years despite fierce competition as company remains optimistic about premium coffee demand in country

BANGKOK , July 11, 2014 () – Leading US coffee chain Starbucks remains optimistic about premium coffee demand in Thailand, aiming to double its store count to 400 over the next five years in the face of fierce competition.

Murray Darling, managing director of Starbucks Coffee (Thailand) Co, said at least 30 new Starbucks stores will open each year during 2014-18 in Thailand, the fastest rate in Asean.

The company expects to reach 400 stores here by 2018.

The 200th Starbucks store recently opened with a drive-through service at the Fast Fac project in Wang Noi district, Ayutthaya, one of the fastest-growing industrial areas in the country.

Plans call for opening 20 more branches in the second half of 2014, bringing the total to 220 by year-end.

The new stores will open under the original store concept and as drive-throughs.

Starbucks has enjoyed steady double-digit growth in sales for the past five years, even as many new rivals have entered the market.

The number of premium coffee outlets in Thailand has risen to 2,000 during that time, up by about a thousand.

Mr Darling places Bangkok among the top 10 capital cities outside the US for number of Starbucks outlets.

"Though the Thai coffee market is very competitive, we see a huge potential to grow our business here because only 30% of the country's population drinks coffee," he said.

The prospects are enhanced by changes in consumer lifestyles, including the pleasure of coffee drinking in a social environment and at premium outlets such as Starbucks.

Various social media channels like Facebook have made Starbucks coffee easier to access for Thai customers.

The coffee-drinking habit has been widening from generation to generation in Thai households.

With the trend, Starbucks in Thailand grew from 100 stores in 2008 to 150 in 2012 and 200 in 2014.

After a 16-year presence here, the coffee king serves more than 1.8 million cups a month to customers.

Due to its faster pace of expansion, the company expects Thai sales to deliver strong double-digit growth this year and 10-20% growth during 2014-18.

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(c)2014 the Bangkok Post (Bangkok, Thailand)

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