Now I appreciate as a lefty I am probably not supposed to like Starbucks, but then I am pretty sure I am not supposed to like Champagne either, or live in West London come to that, so where I choose to buy my coffee is probably the least of my sins. Anyway, today I had the treat (and it is very much a treat) of looking after my 15-month old son for the day. Don’t get me wrong, I am very much a ‘modern’ Dad and fully signed-up to equal parenting responsibilities. That said, it is still unusual for me to get a whole day where it is just me and him and when it happens I treasure it.
After a hard day visiting playgroups and GAP (damn it – another nail in the coffin of my left-wing credentials) we popped into Starbucks on Chiswick High Road. It is a gem of a coffee shop for parents, as it has a brilliant little crèche area at the back. It is also unsurprisingly a very busy coffee shop – when we sat down there were at least 15 other parents with varying numbers of kids running around and generally causing (pleasant) mayhem. I say parents, I mean of course mothers. For, with the exception of me, it was all mothers. In my experience it nearly always is.
As I sat there taking in the atmosphere it made me wonder if Starbucks and the local community were really getting the most out of this situation. If you are a mum with children of a certain age living in Chiswick you go to Starbucks on the High Road, it is an established fact. But once you are there and have bought your coffee, nothing.
In some of their stores in the US Starbucks make a real thing of being local – what an opportunity for this store to do the same. Whether it offers to be a meeting point for the local NCT group, or have book clubs, poetry readings, talks about local matters it kind of doesn’t matter. Although, thinking about it, they could also support other local businesses – I know of at least half-a-dozen craft-based child-centred businesses who would kill for opportunity to promote their wares at such a great location.
There is a captive audience waiting to be engaged, entertained, inspired, educated and sold to – everything in the post-credit crunch world suggests that people want their brands more local and more in touch with their values… What better way to start than with our coffee shops?