Starbucks China leadership regroups to focus on retail and digital innovation

In the second half of 2018, Starbucks partnered with food delivery company Ele.me, an Alibaba subsidiary, to buoy sales.

Starbucks China is tweaking its management structure to reorganize its operations into two divisions, “retail” and “digital innovation,” according to Chinese business news outlet Jiemian.

Leo Tsoi, the current COO of Starbucks China, will take on a new role as president and COO of Starbucks China Retail, while Molly Liu, who is currently VP of digital innovation, will be promoted to general manager of Starbucks Digital Innovation.

Both Tsoi and Liu will report to Starbucks China CEO Belinda Wong, who has been elevated to chairperson of the company.

Last week, Starbucks China launched mobile ordering and pick-up options in its app, taking a leaf out of the Luckin Coffee’s playbook, whose retail strategy focuses on smaller storefronts with pick-up and delivery services. In the second half of 2018, Starbucks partnered with food delivery company Ele.me, an Alibaba subsidiary, to buoy sales.

The restructuring of Starbuck China into dedicated retail and digital operations comes amid heightened competition from Luckin Coffee. The coffee chain upstart, which only launched in late 2017, recently raised USD 586.5 million (RMB 4 billion) during its IPO in New York. Its store count reached 2,300 at the end of March, and the company is planning to hit 4,500 by the end of the year.

Starbucks had 3,700 stores in China in February 2019. It and is aiming for 6,000 by 2022.