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Starbucks' latest heritage concept store in China and the shifting definition of cultural cool in Asia

In conjunction with Chinese Cultural Heritage Day in June 2024, Starbucks China opened its third cultural heritage concept store in Suzhou. Following similar openings in Beijing and Shanghai, the space is designed to showcase local Suzhou culture and Chinese artisanal skills. The interior mimics a Suzhou-style garden pavilion and sports design elements based on local craft, including Su embroidery, needle brush painting techniques and Yunnan’s Wa brocades.

The latest Starbucks cultural heritage store is part of the cafe chain’s broader strategy to ride on the Guo Chao movement, also known as ‘National Trend’ or ‘China Chic.’ Chinese consumers increasingly favor brands rooted in local culture and sensibilities, and in response, both local and global brands are reinventing their offerings to meet this preference. For Starbucks, leaning into heritage is especially important to fend off local competitors like Luckin Coffee that are winning on price.

🌏 More broadly, China's Guo Chao movement is just one example of a powerful shift across Asia, where Western culture is no longer the paragon of cultural cool. Asian kids who grew up in the 1990s might have clamored for hamburgers and Backstreet Boys songs. Today, Filipinos idolize their own P-pop artists (SB19, anyone?), Thais go crazy over their Boys’ Love series, and Indonesians flock to homegrown artisan coffee brands. And we don't even need to mention K-culture.

Culture will always be a key driver of commerce. Aligning your brand with the right players, personalities and properties is a powerful way to resonate with consumers. Is your brand’s cultural compass up to date?

Spotted by: Acacia Leroy