Starbucks has announced it is planning to open 500 stores per year in China for the next five years, ignoring global concerns about the country's economy slowing down. The new stores should create tens of thousands of new jobs, the Seattle-based coffee maker said in a statement.
The company says it is positive on China's outlook, despite the volatility of its currency and market. Starbucks's China sales jumped more than 6% in the fourth quarter of 2015. The coffee shop chain has about 2,000 stores in China at present.
"We have confidence in the future of the Chinese economy, despite all the rhetoric, noise and issues," chief executive Howard Schultz said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. "People are looking for reasons not to believe. I'm on the ground and I see first-hand. I am bullish."
China's surge in recent years has created a vast middle class and consumerism has been on the rise. However, multiple Western brands have struggled to maintain their sales in the country.
The expansion by Starbucks follows the company's announcement that it is subsidising housing for around a third of its Chinese work force. Seven thousand workers in Chinese branches will be eligible to receive an extra subsidy and 3,000 will likely qualify soon. The initiative will cost Starbucks millions, the firm has said.
"You have a lot of people migrating into bigger cities, and the cost of living and rent in those cities is higher," John Culver, head of the company's Asia Pacific operations, told the Seattle Times. "We want to make sure we're giving them the opportunity so that they can afford to live there."