Those who can capture a sense of community and offer consumers a compelling experience will win in the long run, said Michelle Barry, senior vice president of the market-research firm Hartman Group in Bellevue.
"It's not about nostalgia per se, but more about telling a story and reappropriating some things from the past and re-imagining them in a new environment," she said.
Time of change
The ubiquitous coffee-shop giant is dropping the household name from its 15th Avenue East store on Capitol Hill, a shop that was slated to close at one point last year but is being remodeled in Starbucks' new rustic, eco-friendly style.
It will open next week, the first of at least three remodeled Seattle-area stores that will bear the names of their neighborhoods rather than the 16,000-store chain to which they belong.
Names and locations for the other two shops have not been finalized. If the pilot goes well in Seattle, it could move to other markets.
The new names are meant to give the stores "a community personality," said Tim Pfeiffer, senior vice president of global design. Starbucks' logo will be absent, with bags of the company's coffee and other products rebranded with the 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea name.
In the spirit of a traditional coffeehouse, it will serve wine and beer, host live music and poetry readings and sell espresso from a manual machine rather than the automated type found in most Starbucks stores.
The changes come at a time when retailers, including Starbucks, are suffering from slower foot traffic and lower profits.