Starbucks is raising its sights in China and aims to have 5,000 stores by 2021 in a market that Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz says “will be larger than the U.S. over time.”

Share story

Starbucks is raising its sights in China and aims to have 5,000 stores by 2021 in a market that Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz says “will be larger than the U.S. over time.”

“There’s no doubt at some point China will exceed the U.S.,” Schultz said in an interview.

The Seattle-based company now has more than 2,300 stores in China, up from 400 in 2011. It had previously outlined plans to reach 3,400 by the end of 2019.

Overseeing plans to double the store count will be Belinda Wong, who has been promoted from president to CEO of Starbucks China.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

At an investor conference last month, Starbucks Chief Financial Officer Scott Maw said U.S. stores bring in average revenue of $1.6 million, and “it’s about $1.2 million in Japan and approaching $900,000 in China,” according to an S&P Capital IQ transcript.

But “China (is) leading the way in overall return,” he said, with a 64 percent return on investment for new stores, compared with 55 percent in Japan and 61 percent in the U.S.

Schultz noted that Starbucks will open its first Roastery outside Seattle next year in Shanghai. The company has also invested in initiatives such as familiarizing the parents of Chinese employees with Starbucks, and subsidizing housing for full-time employees in some high-cost cities.

But Schultz said Starbucks won’t export to China its tendency to be outspoken on societal issues such as race relations, the treatment of veterans or same-sex marriage.

“The fact that we are an American company — I think we view our social impact and our strategy around that to be unique to the U.S.,” he said.