The Tea Market
The American tea market is growing rapidly. Tea sales have increased 165% since 1990, with the number of tea rooms offering sit down service rising about 15% to about 1,500 shops. The number of tea rooms selling loose tea and accessories rose over the same period to about 200 shops.
American interest in tea certainly owes some of its increase to the proliferation of gourmet coffee shops around the country in this same period. Most of working America has accepted the idea of expensive hot beverages as affordable luxuries, thanks to the marketing efforts of Starbucks, Seattle's Best, and so on. At the same time, fashion is always on the move - now that fancy coffee drinks are so widely accepted, savvy consumers are looking for new, more unique treats to enjoy. Starbucks estimates that 7% of its $12 billion annual sales currently come from tea.
Spurred by studies touting tea's health effects, and increasing familiarity with Asian and South Asian cuisine and its tea customs, American consumers have been turning towards tea as a more original, more "natural" affordable luxury. In addition, the cultural connection of tea with all things "civilized" (largely from American understandings of British high tea) has made tea knowledge, including the choice of a favorite teahouse, a mark of sophistication among many American middle class women.
Simsbury itself is a rural town getting slowly gentrified, and gradually adopting the sophisticated tastes of its tourists. Recent moves towards organic farming in several of the surrounding towns reflect the changing tastes and priorities of local residents. Local high schools have seen dramatic increases over the last 10 years in the percentage of juniors and seniors enrolled in courses for college credit - newer residents are much more concerned with education than their predecessors, as the community's affluence grows. All of these trends bode well for the success of an upscale teahouse.
The Chocolate Market
Annually, $408 million of premium chocolates such as Godiva, Scharffen Berger, Ghirardelli and local private labels such as Garrison's are sold throughout America. Despite the 19% per year growth rate from 1996-2002, the U.S. chocolate market has not yet matured, leaving room for continued growth. Europeans consume twice as much chocolate as Americans, with a per capita consumption of 22.4 pounds vs. 12.2 pounds. It is estimated that the premium chocolate market will grow from 408 million dollars per year in 2002 to 1.2 billion dollars per year by 2005.
Hartford County's population is 885,000 people, with 80,000 living within a 5 mile radius of Simsbury Center. Of these, 37%, or 30,000, are between the ages of 25 and 60 - our target age group. Given our upscale comestibles selection and prices, and based on U.S. census data for local income levels, we estimate that roughly 2/3 of these of these people have pre-existing brand loyalties or economic constraints that would discourage them from visiting our teahouse. Our local target market is therefore roughly 10,000 people.
According to a 2001 study by the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis (U. Conn), Connecticut’s travel and tourism industry generated gross revenues in 1999 in excess of $4.9 billion, or almost 4% of Connecticut’s 1999 estimated gross state product. The same study found that travel and tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in Connecticut. Simsbury itself benefits economically from tourist visits all year round, with our combination of scenic outdoor activities and seasonal cultural events. Based on data from the Simsbury Chamber of Commerce, we estimate a potential market of at least 100,000 tourists annually for our business.
While we anticipate a split between locals and tourists, all members of our target market are between the ages of 25 and 60, and have a moderate to sizable disposable income.
Jasmine Teahouse will provide the local upper-middle-class community with a place to socialize, indulge themselves with fine teas and pastries, and find unique chocolates and tea for gifts. For tourists, Jasmine Teahouse will be a destination stop in their tour of the town, whether as a break from shopping, a warm-up visit after skiing, or a place to buy unique gifts as souvenirs of their holiday.
These customers will be glad to pay the price premium for our products in exchange for the high quality, great taste, and sense of prestige they receive. In fact, higher prices for some items (Assam golden tippy versus regular Assam) may encourage higher sales - these kinds of customers eagerly accept the idea that higher prices equal higher quality, and want to buy "only the best," regardless of whether their palate is educated enough to appreciate the subtle differences.
The tea market is relatively new in rural and suburban areas such as Simsbury. Currently, locals and more sophisticated tourists looking for a cup of coffee or tea can either go to the local Dunkin Donuts or Peaberry's cafe, or travel up to five miles out of town to reach the nearest Starbucks. None of these options is geared toward the tea drinker, and none of them offer the convenience or upscale feeling, let alone knowledgeable service, available at Jasmine Teahouse.
Teahouses have long done well in urban areas; Tealuxe in Boston and the Russian Tea Room in New York are both internationally renowned. In smaller tourists areas, however, smaller, more eclectic teahouses have also done very well in recent years. The Berkshires, a tourist area roughly 50 miles north of Simsbury with a similar tourist base, now has over 15 specialty teahouses throughout the county. In talking with the owners of three of these establishments, we have learned that their proximity to cultural events, shopping districts and fine restaurants has brought in hundreds of walk-in tourists monthly, while advertising with local hotels and bed and breakfasts boosted their clientele only slightly. Word of mouth, visibility, and year-round tourist appeal are very important for a teahouse's success in areas like Simsbury.
Premium Chocolate Sales
In the Hartford area, the premium and near-premium chocolate market is made up of three major competitors: Godiva, Munson's and Lindt. Both Godiva and Munsons sell their products out of their own stores, while Lindt's products are sold through retailers such as Target. Lindt is beginning to expand in the market with 90 stores as of 2003, the nearest one in Westport, CT. With the higher than expected growth rate in the premium chocolates market, retailers like Godiva are expected to open new locations. Due to the nature of the business it is hard to gauge the overall net sales of these privately held companies. Godiva, owned by Campbell, has reported that their sales in the confectionary division are $484 million. Their overall sales have remained flat with the exception of their Godiva division, whose sales increased by 9.7%. With the economy on the rebound, Campbell's expects Godiva's sales to be much stronger in 2004. Lindt has reported that their chocolate sales world wide are expected to grow 7 to 10% a year with a high growth rate in the U.S., due to an increase in the number of stores.
According to chocolate statistics, Americans purchase 3.1 billion pounds of chocolate a year. This translates into $13.7 billion dollars. Briefly stated, these outlets fall into the following categories:
Jasmine Teahouse offers only premium chocolates.
In the gourmet teahouse industry, competition depends on quality of teas, knowledgeable teatenders, and cultivation and education of a loyal customer base. Consumers used to Lipton teabags and other low-quality, tea-dust offerings in grocery stores are amazed at the range of tastes, textures, and fragrances from real, high quality tea. Offer them a good cup, and they will usually return for the rest of their lives. However, getting them to enter your store in the first place can be a major challenge.
Our potential customers vary in knowledge of tea, and are seeking a wide range of experiences and products.
Tea drinkers are looking for a pleasant, relaxing place in which to indulge their love of tea, share it with friends, and learn more about tea varieties, cultivation, and health properties. Committed tea drinkers will always choose quality over price or convenience, seeking out the freshest whole-leaf and tippy varietals in the area. Friends of ours have driven 50 miles to buy quality loose teas to bring home with them. Our challenge with these consumers is getting out the word that we are here, and holding events to showcase our quality.
The middle and upper-middle class women of Simsbury and surrounding towns currently have no place where they can go to be spoiled at a moderate price outside of a full restaurant. Starbucks, at 5 miles away, can be inconvenient, noisy, and overcrowded with teenagers. Local restaurants can also be noisy, and require a large chunk of time and money for an outing. This market segment is seeking a cozy, comfortable, upscale/exclusive locale with a similar clientele, where they can meet friends, have some good food and beverages, and stay as long or as short as they want. Our challenge with the socializers is to create a buzz from the very beginning that we are exclusive, pleasant, and high-quality, without generating such overcrowding that we lose our intimate feeling.
Comestible Gift Buyers
Currently, the only upscale comestibles in the Simsbury area suitable for gifts are organic meats and local cheeses from surrounding boutique farms - tasty, but certainly not romantic. Husbands and wives looking for something different from the standard bouquet can currently choose a cheap box of chocolates from the grocery store, or hoof it to the city to try to find something more indulgent. We will offer local residents a convenient, attractive, and always-satisfying gift buying experience at a reasonable price, with a bit of cachet.
Tourists vary widely in their reasons for visiting Simsbury, but they generally share a sophisticated urban palate, a moderately high disposable income, and a desire to "discover" quaint local charm. They are seeking high-quality foods, beverages, gifts, and service. While here, they much prefer local, small-scale businesses to larger chains (like Dunkin Donuts), but want to be assured of quality. Our challenge with tourists is being visible enough to be noticed, without losing our local charm. Once such a visitor has tried our teahouse, they will definitely want to return.
Other Potential Customers: