Can bespoke coffee retailers compete with Starbucks in China?
As a country of known tea-drinkers, it’s no surprise that the Chinese population drinks eight times as much tea as coffee; although the gap is closing and coffee consumption is increasing annually, thanks to a younger generation of coffee drinkers embracing ‘coffee-house culture’. Shanghai is home to 6,500 coffee shops, but with Starbucks aiming to open a new store in China every 15 hours over the next five years, how can more bespoke retailers compete?
Unibrown Coffee offers an alternative choice for corporate business locations, with design-led stores popping up within the collaborative environments of office buildings to appeal to the working consumer. Its latest branch, designed by local practice Mur Mur Lab, has opened in the foyer of Shanghai’s Infinity Tower – one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. Constructed as an abstract space in the building’s ground-floor lobby, the 60-sq-m booth is separated from the rest of the foyer by a white, perforated veil.
Inside, hidden from the outside world, the quietness and serenity of the semi-private environment reflects the natural phenomena of standing on a mountaintop wrapped in dense fog. Designed to relate closely to the body’s curved forms, the spatial concept defines the user experience – whether sitting or standing, grouped or alone – to encourage each customer to ‘find their most comfortable posture’.
Mur Mur Lab says that the design focuses on the senses and feelings between human beings; creating exchanges between users of the buildings that may not usually occur by facilitating spontaneous interactions. As such, the relationship between coffee, construction and the flowing of space becomes a ‘connection of time and personal identity’ which allows design to relate to the body and affect emotional experience.