There have been a few articles in the media recently about if the UK is close to reaching peak coffee shop. The BBC asked if the UK was reaching coffee shop saturation point, ITV News ran a short piece on the ‘battle’ in the high street between chain coffee shops and independents. I started to think about some of these things in a blog post last week, but then decided to explore some of these ideas a little more in a short article for The Conversation (an online media outlet where academics and researchers can write about their work).
In the article I suggest that we are likely to see continued growth for a while in the number of coffee shops, although I do find the growth figures predicted quite staggering. Is there really enough space in the UK for another 10,000 coffee shops in less than 10 years? But alongside this growth I think there will be some transformation of the market, with a growing element of specialty coffee and a focus on food and the coffee shop experience than we currently have (at least in a lot of the chain coffee shops). This could potentially lead the way for a greater space for independent coffee shops, although the market is challenging, with such high competition, and rising retail rental costs.
In response to the article I was asked to join a panel of guests on the Kaye Adams programme on BBC Scotland. It was a short segment in the show which you can listen to online here (the coffee shop discussion starts around 1 hour 36 minutes in to the programme). The panel consisted of myself, a specialty coffee shop owner from Glasgow, and a music blogger from Glasgow. The discussion asked if there’s room for chains and independent coffee shop as part of future growth, and if we are close to saturation point, and what effect this is having on town centres? There was also discussion of the similarities between coffee and wine in terms of the variety of taste, and how more people are being exposed to this greater variety of coffee available – and the importance of making this accessible to consumers. It was highlighted how many independent coffee shops have sparked a community aspect to certain areas, and how coffee shops have a broader role than just the coffee itself. This was at the heart of where I wanted to start with my studies of coffee shops as economic and social entities in our towns and cities (and increasingly more rural locations too).