Message from Howard to Partners in China: Thank you

Partners,

I am looking forward to spending time with many of you in Shanghai and Beijing as we pay tribute to the hard work, passion, love and responsibility our partners bring to Starbucks every day. 

Next year we will celebrate 20 years since Starbucks opened its first stores in China. In that time, we have grown to over 3,300 stores in 142 cities. Each new store is delivering the highest average unit volumes, return on investment, and profitability of any of the market’s prior store classes. And throughout the region, love for the Starbucks brand is growing because of the experience and trust each of you provide our customers. I am grateful for how honorably you represent Starbucks 47 years of sourcing, roasting, blending and handcrafting the world’s finest coffees. Your passion is the foundation of our celebrated history in China and is what gives me confidence in our future.

There are many reasons for all of us to be proud of the work we do:

Most notably, how we are shaping the experience of our partners by investing in programs that are meaningful to you and your families. Today, our critical illness insurance program benefits over 10,000 partners’ parents. In addition, I know that the housing allowance subsidy, ongoing training and development opportunities through Starbucks China and, of course, Bean Stock and comprehensive health insurance continue to benefit many of your lives. And, you continue to care for each other as members of a Starbucks family.

In Yunnan province, Starbucks China Farmer Support Center is promoting sustainable coffee-growing practices throughout the region. We have trained 17,300 farmers on sustainable farming practices and through C.A.F.E. practices verified more than 1,700 farms that cover 17,000 hectres of land. Today, Starbucks is the largest buyer of exported Arabica coffee from Yunnan, and the Center is helping us realize our vision of bringing high quality Yunnan coffee to the world.

We’re also making a difference in our communities. Since 2007, our partnership with the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation (CSCLF) has directly benefitted more than 18,000 young people in China, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, through education and training. The “Starbucks China Youth Leadership Development Program” is fostering future leaders by cultivating business mindsets, social conscience, and collaborative communication skills in young people, reaching 1,500 students to date. Also, Starbucks disaster-relief efforts with CSCLF have helped more than 12,000 earthquake victims following the 2013 Ya’an and 2014 Ludian earthquakes.

In January 1999, Starbucks entered mainland China for the first time with a store in the China World Trade Building in Beijing.  Many questioned our decision to enter the market and whether we would succeed.  Look where we are today.  Because of our partners, China is now on pace to become our biggest market for the company.  And yet, even today we hear from shortsighted outsiders who remain skeptical of our growth opportunities here.  But what I knew in 1999 is what we all know to be true today: you and the strong, trusted relationships between you and our customers give me confidence that Starbucks will continue to deliver long-term growth and an unparalleled customer experience in China.

I also recognize that I am visiting at a moment of trade tension between China and the United States, which are our two largest markets. While our company is not immune to geopolitics, I remain convinced that China will remain a healthy growth market for Starbucks.  We have a 20-year history of playing the long game here.  Belinda and the leadership team will stay true to that tradition, making meaningful investments in our partners, customers and the communities where we operate. As a purpose driven company, we have always worked to set the example for others by furthering our commitments to our partners, to the communities we serve, and to our time-honored mission and values regardless of any threatening political or economic headwinds. I have every confidence that Starbucks will continue to prove that a company can achieve long-term objectives while staying true to its values and treating its people with dignity and respect.

This is a time for all of us to be optimistic.

For 20 years I have come to China and had the honor of meeting so many of you, as well as your families. Today, I come with gratitude, and to thank you. I hope all of you share my pride in what we continue to achieve. I look forward to more time together in the coming days. Thank you for your passion, your talent, and ongoing commitment to the future of the company.

Onward with love,

Howard

Related news: Looking back at nearly 20 years of Starbucks in China