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Starbucks in China: what lessons can Starbucks learn from Luckin?

Heidi M.J. Bertels (Lucille and Jay Chazanoff School of Business, CUNY College of Staten Island, Staten Island, New York, USA)
David Desplaces (Tommy and Victoria Baker School of Business, The Citadel, Charleston, South Carolina, USA)

Publication date: 1 September 2021

Issue publication date: 12 October 2021


Theoretical basis

The case integrates frameworks on business models, the business model canvas (BMC) and Porter’s generic strategies in the context of the coffee industry in China. The case enables students to construct a Business Model Canvas for competing companies, analyze the canvas to deduce the generic strategy they are pursuing, and formulate recommendations based on this analysis.

Research methodology

The case is derived from secondary sources, including publicly available reports and information about Starbucks and Luckin.

Case overview/synopsis

This case looks at Starbucks in China as it faces a fierce Chinese competitor and evolving consumer behavior. Luckin, a Chinese coffee store company, had seen explosive growth since its inception in Beijing in 2017. By late 2019, its number of brick-and-mortar locations surpassed the number of Starbucks’ coffee stores in China, which had entered the Chinese market two decades earlier in 1999. Luckin’s focused on convenience through leveraging technology and reducing costs by limiting physical stores. Although Luckin’s fortunes turned in March of 2020, after an accounting scandal came to light, Luckin’s success suggests that consumers were attracted to its positioning as a “fast coffee pickup and delivery” provider. The case describes Starbucks’ strategy in China, which it sees as an important long-term growth market. It also describes the strategic activities of fast-growing, Chinese coffee company Luckin and discusses Chinese culture and consumer behavior.

Complexity academic level

The case is written for undergraduate students enrolled in a business strategy or corporate entrepreneurship course. Given that the case centers on China, it could also be used in international entrepreneurship/business courses.



Disclaimer. This case is intended to be used as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. The case was compiled from published sources.


Bertels, H.M.J. and Desplaces, D. (2021), "Starbucks in China: what lessons can Starbucks learn from Luckin?", , Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 625-646.



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