Beijing-based Luckin Coffee, a domestic rival of Starbucks of the U.S., said it aims to become China's largest chain coffee brand in the number of outlet stores and sales this year.
An expert said that Luckin's emergence is stimulating the domestic coffee industry, which has large growth potential.
Luckin plans to open 2,500 more stores this year to raise the number of its coffee outlets to more than 4,500 nationwide, Qian Zhiya, founder and CEO of Luckin, said on Thursday at a meeting in Beijing. Achieving that goal would take it past Starbucks, which has more than 3,600 stores in the Chinese mainland market.
Qian said that Luckin, which started trial operations on January 1, 2018, had sold 89.68 million cups of coffee by the end of last year and opened 2,073 stores in 22 domestic cities.
Luckin aims to tap the great growth potential of the Chinese coffee consumption market, Yang Fei, co-founder and CMO of Luckin, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Luckin is bringing the "catfish effect" into the Chinese coffee sector, stimulating its rapid growth and driving cooperation between its rival Starbucks and Alibaba Group, Du Hao, a Shenzhen-based industry insider, told the Global Times on Thursday. Starbucks announced a comprehensive strategic cooperation with Alibaba in August 2018.
"Luckin will have to focus on its quality if it wants to compete with other rivals like Starbucks while keeping expanding fast," a Beijing-based consumer surnamed Liu told the Global Times.
Yang said that annual average per capita coffee consumption in China is four cups, compared with more than 200 in countries like Japan and South Korea.
Luckin posted a net loss of 857 million yuan ($124.7 million) during the first three quarters in 2018.
Yang said the loss was "within expectations," and Luckin will keep offering discounts to consumers in the next three to five years as part of the company's long-term growth strategy.
He said that the company won't become the next ofo, a Chinese bike-sharing provider that's now mired in debt and fight for survival.