Walking down Great Ormond Street into Lamb’s Conduit Street in central London a few days ago I noticed that the Starbucks which used to be on the corner of these two roads had shut down. I haven’t yet been able to get any kind of ‘official’ confirmation as to why it closed down – and when I last checked about an hour ago Starbucks still listed it as open on their corporate website. A celebratory tweet of 26 October from The Lamb Bookshop is the earliest evidence of the shut down I could find from a quick online search:
“Oh my gosh, Starbucks has closed on Lamb’s Conduit Street! We are now a completely indie high street!!!!”
The Jonestown London Blog (2 November) contains the following information about the short term future use of the empty property (but gives no reasons for the Starbucks closure):
“Organised with the help of Darkroom, property consultants Farebrother and Cube PR… the panel are calling out for retailers, curators and designers to send in proposals for a pop-up store, opening December 5th and closing on January 2nd, 2013.
The winner will get the space for FREE – at Lamb’s Conduit Street’s busiest time of year. FOR REALSIES.
No.70 is a huge corner site – the old Starbucks unit – weighing in at 895 square feet (with 684 square feet of storage). A white shell – it’ll be up to the winner to make it as loopy and inviting as they can. Plus, it’s opposite The Lamb, so it’ll be full of boozy Christmas shoppers – perfect selling conditions.”
The only Google review of the closed Starbucks on Lamb’s Conduit Street had this to say about it: “Overall: Poor to fair. Liked: Value. Disliked: Food, Service, Atmosphere.” Which pretty much sums up any Starbucks, although given the coffee is rubbish it is difficult to see how it could be good value. Bad food and bad coffee are over-priced even when they’re nominally ‘cheap’.
Following the tweet trail backwards I noticed that another central London Starbucks on Exmouth Market had closed recently too. Drew Benvie tweets on 18 October:
“Anyone know why Starbucks shut down its Exmouth Market cafe? I’ve never seen a Starbucks close down, and on such a prime street.”
Benvie received this reply from Neil Young (77):
“I happened to go in on the day they closed — they just said for ‘business reasons’. Too much good coffee in immediate vicinity?”
Gresham’s Law states that “bad money drives out good” – but when it comes to cafes it now seems that the reverse might also be true, and that good coffee can indeed drive out bad coffee even when corporate outlets attempt to saturate all of London with their unwanted branding. The Starbucks corporate website currently lists the Exmouth Market branch as closed, but they’re still either behind or not being honest about their Lamb’s Conduit Street operation having shut down: possibly because there were widely reported protests against it opening back in 2006.
In 2009 Starbucks reported a £47 million pound trading loss on its UK operations in the previous year and shut some London outlets saying that the closures would continue into 2010. It seems the shut downs are being rolled over all the way into 2012 and beyond. Let’s hope this trend contiunes until there are no branches of Starbucks to be found anywhere in London!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!