High street coffee bars claim massive contribution to retail economy

The role of the coffee shop in the high street economy may be far more important than has previously been thought, which will explain why so many local councils are now keen to turn parts of their shopping and tourist locations into ‘café culture’ areas.

Research sponsored by Starbucks suggests that the coffee-house trade is now vastly important to the high-street retail economy, and even goes so far as to claim that twenty million people visit coffee shops in a typical week.

That figure will almost certainly be discussed at this week’s Allegra Coffee Summit, a major coffee trade conference, and will not be received without question. It has been suggested that the figures are so surprisingly high that the coffee trade and the business community in general will want to see more evidence of the workings.

The most remarkable figure claimed by Starbucks is that 35 per cent of the British adult population, ‘at least twenty million customers’, visit coffee shops in a typical week. This has already aroused questions, and the trade magazine Coffee House has enquired of Starbucks whether they, as sponsors, were not sufficiently surprised to query the finding – however, the coffee chain has not responded.

A senior manager at another well-known high street chain has commented that if all the socio-economic segments and factors of the economically-active adult population were taken into consideration, the industry’s customer figures could not reach twenty million a week. It is thought that twenty million ‘transactions’, taking account of the many people who make multiple visits in a week, or even in a day, might be a more likely figure, but although Coffee House magazine has suggested this to the research company involved, the researcher’s reply does indeed suggest that its figures refer to individuals.

Another figure which Starbucks has used for its promotional use is that ‘up to 25 per cent of footfall’ on the high street is ‘made up by people out for a coffee’. The idea that a quarter of all visits to retail streets is inspired by people looking for a cup of coffee has also been questioned.

Allegra Strategies has responded that two separate studies have given the same answer: one in which consumers in six locations were asked what their purpose on the High Street was, and another which reported that of the total footfall on five locations, 25 per cent of that footfall entered the coffee shops on that street.

However, the coffee trade has reacted positively to an additional finding which suggests that ‘the presence of coffee shops typically boosts the local economy of the British high street by 3-5 per cent’. This, says the trade, is a very likely figure, and gives the café trade something to put forward to those local authorities who, while saying that they want a ‘café culture’ area in their towns, then protest about the about the number of cafes which are opening, and continue to place obstacles in the way of the hospitality trade – most typically, in the matter of permission for street furniture.

“If the 3-5 per cent figure is correct, it provides the trade with an important answer to the increasing number of councils who are complaining about the number of coffee shops on their high streets,” commented Louie Salvoni of the Coffee Council, an organisation recently formed to speak up for the coffee trade. “How can they complain if we can show that we are bringing them positive growth?”

Several coffee-house operators have told Coffee House magazine that they believe this figure to be perfectly reasonable, and one major chain has said that it is now often invited into retail-regeneration areas specifically for the growth that its cafes can provide.

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The Allegra Cofee Summit is on Thursday April 22, at Vinopolis, London

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All the best beverage trade news comes from Boughton’s Coffee House magazine – http://www.coffee-house.org.uk

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One Response to “High street coffee bars claim massive contribution to retail economy”

  1. Are You One Of Many People Around The World Who Love Drinking Coffee? | Bel Canto Coffee Blog Says:

    […] High street coffee bars claim massive contribution to retail … […]

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