The Starbucks Economy

by wjw on October 22, 2008

This from Daniel Gross:

“I propose the Starbucks theory of international economics. The higher the concentration of expensive, nautically themed, faux-Italian-branded Frappuccino joints in a country’s financial capital, the more likely the country is to have suffered catastrophic financial losses . . .

” . . . At first blush, there’s a pretty close correlation between a country having a significant Starbucks presence, especially in its financial capital, and major financial cock-ups, from Australia (big blowups in finance, hedge funds, and asset management companies; 23 stores) to the United Kingdom (nationalization of its largest banks). In many ways, London in recent years has been a more concentrated version of New York—the wellspring of many toxic innovations, a hedge-fund haven. It sports 256 Starbucks. In Spain, which is now grappling with the bursting of a speculative coastal real-estate bubble (sound familiar?), the financial capital, Madrid, has 48 outlets. In crazy Dubai, 48 Starbucks outlets serve a population of 1.4 million. And so on: South Korea, which is bailing outs its banks big time, has 253; Paris, the locus of several embarrassing debacles, has 35.

“But there are many spots on the globe where it’s tough to find a Starbucks. And these are precisely the places where banks are surviving, in large part because they have not financially integrated with banks in the Starbucks economies . . . “

The full story here.

Ken Houghton October 24, 2008 at 12:51 pm

When I was first looking at topics for a thesis, I realized that the rise of SBUX stores correlates rather well with the return to an increase in American productivity (this grew until the Reagan Era, was flat for a while, and then started again in the Clinton Era—but that is surely coincident).

If you view Starbucks correctly—it's a caffeine-delivery device; Caroline Spector described the coffee itself perfectly here—then the "amount of stimulation to the body and brain" (gads; sex and Shriekback references in the same aside) leads to the question of sustainability.

Fortunately, someone else will have to do that work. But there is a reason that race car drivers are not allowed to have too much caffeine in their systems, and impaired judgment when you're dealing with multimillion-dollar portfolios is odds-on to be A Problem.

This is not to blame everything on SBUX, which filled a need and has engendered competition from the likes of Dunkin Donuts and MickeyD’s. So really it’s proof that correlation is not causation. But if the impaired judgment is a direct result of SBUX (just as the 80s were cocaine), then eliminating the stores in the Era of Red Bull still wouldn’t solve the problem.

Ralf the Dog October 24, 2008 at 2:44 pm

The problem is not stock traders doing caffeine. The problem is stock traders doing crack (and or meth). I think dosing their coffee with lithium might not be a bad idea.

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