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How independent coffee shops are taking on global coffee giants

A rise in independent coffee shops is showing a change in the UK’s coffee shop market.

In the UK, the coffee shop industry is bigger than ever, with more than 3.6 million adults visiting coffee shops last year compared to in 2010[1].

Because of the relaxed, inviting atmosphere on offer, coffee shops are ideal spaces for offering a range more than a brew and a slice of cake, the coffee house is pushing out the pub as a place to socialise, and they’re popular spaces to meet, work and eat. They have a wide appeal across generations, including the often hard-to-target millennials. Stores have seen an 80% increase of 15-24 year olds through their doors in 2017 when compared to 2010[1].

With over 600 new stores opening in the past year[2], the coffee shop boom shows no signs of slowing, so is it a hot investment?

Although coffee shops are on the rise, Britain’s biggest chain store, Costa Coffee, has experienced a fall in sales. Showing possible signs of a struggle in their last quarter, Costa’s overall dipped to 0.1%, with 1.5% fall in sales at its UK high street outlets[3].

Customers are still going to cafes, yet the fall in profits for chain brands like Costa shows that traditional coffee stops are no longer meeting customer expectations.

Instead, customers are opting for more independent coffee shops, shown by the rise of independent and artisan stores like Joe & The Juice.

Independent coffee shops offer customers different, and is continuing this momentum by experimenting with flavours such as iced turmeric and beetroot lattes.

To adapt to the rise in independent coffee stores, chains such as Starbucks and Costa have introduced more artisan elements to their shops, such as flat whites, vegan and coconut milk menu items, brick walls and rustic décor. Yet, Allegra founder Jeffry Young states that these changes are not innovative enough for the current coffee market, making the brands seem ordinary in comparison[4].

With an increased number of stores for customers to choose from, independent coffee shops can pose a long-term threat to traditional coffee shops and chains which don’t offer the experience customers are demanding.

To keep on top of customer demands and maximise your profits, here’s what independent coffee shops are getting right.

Follow the trends

Part of the success of independent coffee shops is their ability to rapidly innovate and keep up-to-date with customer demands. By staying on top of (and offering the latest) coffee trends, coffee shops can prove that they are listening to customers and are able to offer unique experiences.

The number one trend with coffee shops right now is cold brew. From simple cold brews to premium coffee ice-cream hybrids, the sweet drinks are proving that the hottest thing in coffee is best-served cold.

An added bonus of the cold brew trend is that it’s incredibly easy to make in bulk and store in reliable refrigerated units until the exact moment it’s served. This makes it a convenient drink to offer – all while showing that you can give customers something more than a traditional coffee shop.

Get the look right

Customers are turning to independent stores because they want experiences that they can’t find at home. As well as the drinks on offer, part of the experience relies on the décor of the coffee shop.

With more outlets opening each year, independent stores are finding unique locations and décor to set them apart, such as The Steam Yard in Sheffield, which is housed in a grade II listed silver works factory.

Great décor will not only entice customers through the doors, it will also encourage them to take and post pictures on social media such as Instagram, raising awareness and the profile of your coffee shop to more potential customers.

Premium means profit

With a rise in premium, hand-crafted and artisanal drinks, customers are wanting something that they can’t find anywhere else.

With an additional demand and rising competition from convenience and value coffee, with chains like McDonalds and Greggs offering hot drinks, premium drinks are a must to make customers choose your store over others.

As with any premium product, it’s important to let customers know exactly what you have to offer. Display your high-quality, luxurious and unique products in style with bespoke design-led display cabinets which are perfect for tempting your customers and proving that your products are worth paying for.

[image of coffee shop display unit]

The future of coffee shops

What customers want and expect from coffee stores is changing. Moving away from traditional coffee shops, customers are turning towards premium, artisanal and unique drinks and experiences on offer from independent coffee stores.

To maximise profits in coffee shops, it’s important to listen to customer demands and trends. It’s also important to display exactly what you have to offer, in design led display units that you can rely on.

For more hints, tips and ideas, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram and subscribe to our email newsletter.


[1] https://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/Article/2017/09/18/Regulars-shun-the-pub-in-favour-of-coffee-shops 

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/uk-coffee-shops-chains-cafe-growth-europe-starbucks-costa-caffe-nero-a8117791.html 

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jan/18/costa-coffee-loses-its-froth-as-sales-fall

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/oct/24/costa-sales-growth-dips-as-coffee-drinkers-turn-to-artisan-options

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