Starbucks trials unbranded stores in 'stealth' move

NEW YORK - Starbucks has ditched its branding on three trial stores and redesigned them to resemble independent local cafes.

The trial, which is running in the coffee giant's home city of Seattle, uses the address of the cafe in its branding. For example one is called 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea. In addition the products sold are also non-branded.

Starbucks senior vice president Tim Pfeiffer said the new stores aimed to reflect the local community more than the chain's regular stores currently did. One of the trial outlets will feature poetry readings and live music.

The brand said the new concepts are influenced by the original Starbucks outlets of the early 70s, yet critics have described the stores as "Stealth Starbucks" and doubted the company's ability to successfully create a local store.

The launch of the unbranded stores follows Starbucks decision to launch an advertising campaign to shake off its image as a purveyor of overpriced coffee.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz admitted the coffee chain had become the "poster child" for excess when in fact most of its products were not as expensive as they were perceived.

Coffee shops have struggled in the downturn. UK chain Coffee Republic recently went into administration while in April Starbucks reported a 77% fall in quarterly profits.

At the start of this year Starbucks said it was cutting 6,700 jobs and shutting 300 underperforming stores. Those come on top of the 661 closures announced in 2008.

In March Starbucks announced it was planning to launch an advertising campaign in an effort to shake off its image as a purveyor of overpriced coffee.

**What do UK consumers think of the idea of unbranded Starbucks cafes? Watch our video interviews**