The opening of the new Teavana Tea Bar in New York City has caused plenty of buzz in the U.S. tea market, and understandably so. The photos of the new Tea Bar look great. The design is modern, upscale, and lacks the excessive and flamboyant bright and loud colors that made many men afraid of walking into a Teavana store for fear of being labeled that which they are not by mall passer-bys. There are not many times when I wish that I was in New York City, but the opening of the Teavana Tea Bar had me interested enough to wish just that.
It is simple to comprehend why many smaller tea business owners are frightened of the corporate machine giant that aspires to take a seat next to them in the neighborhood as soon as possible. They are afraid that the same fate awaits them as many of the smaller retail and grocery stores that have been wiped out by Wal-Mart, Target, and other large corporate chains. That is the nature of capitalism, like it or not. In this economic environment, just like in the jungle or desert, it is adapt or die. Sadly, there certainly will be some smaller businesses that will have to close their doors sooner than they would have to if Teavana never decides to move in.
However, I am suggesting that not every small tea business owner needs to fear the giant. In fact, those who are dynamic and flexible may find that Teavana will help in developing the market, and in a short time actually help the small businesses to find new customers. Yes, they will see huge amounts of clients enter the beautiful new belly of the beast, and this will cause some anxiety, and maybe even the loss of a customer or two at first. My advice may seem counter-intuitive at this point, but in the end it will help immensely. Walk into Teavana, allow their employees to waft some of their teas in your face, maybe even try one or two of the their teas. Get to know the new neighbor. Get to know their products, their marketing, their displays. Learn from them. There is much to learn from the success of others.
Some of you may notice that the term “neighbor” is being used, when the better known phrase is “know your enemy.” If the smaller tea business owners are able to adapt, and some may not even need to do much if anything to adapt, then Teavana is not going to be an enemy. Teavana is going to spend vast amounts of money in marketing and trying to expand the tea market. They will spark the curiosity of some consumers who otherwise may never experience the light of tea in the current market. They will be the lion that brings the meat, and the small tea businesses must be the crafty hyenas. In some areas, the small businesses will be able to grab large chunks of the meal, while the lion will maintain their dominance in other areas.
The fact of the matter is that smaller businesses will not be able to defeat Teavana, nor should they be interested in trying to do so. Teavana indeed has quite the selection of tea and tisane blends, but anyone who is remotely familiar with tea knows that even having one hundred options available is a drop in the bucket of the ever expanding types of tea and the endless number of tastes and blends that can be created. Whether the consumer simply gets tired of Teavana’s blends, or becomes more adventurous and seeks out more artisanal and specialty types of tea, or simply wants to see if the same money can buy better teas elsewhere, there will be plenty of consumers to pull away from the giant.
Watch for opportunities. Watch for weaknesses. They are there. I have found them. I do not see Teavana as a threat, but an exciting opportunity to launch the U.S. tea market to new heights.
Check back for the next installment of this blog series. There is much ground to cover, and much hope to spread.
Photos are courtesy of Nicole Martin of the TeaForMePlease Blog. See her review of the new Teavana Tea Bar by clicking here. Thank you very much, Nicole, for letting me use your photos.