Earlier on this year, Howard Schultz stepped down as the CEO of Starbucks (NYT, Seattle Times, WSJ). In our paper, Erwin Dekker and I have looked into what can we learn from the ascent of Starbucks about the meaning of economic competition. Here is the abstract:
This paper offers an alternative to essentialist theories that conceptualize goods as bundles of objective characteristics. Extending the idea that economic competition is a discovery process beyond the discovery of costs and prices to the discovery of qualities, we argue that relevant qualities of goods emerge along with costs and prices from the process of economic competition. Such a discovery process revolves around exemplary goods—a novel theoretical concept we develop. Exemplary goods, as we argue, have a coordinative role within markets that is complementary to the coordinative role of prices. We illustrate our theory with a reinterpretation of a case study on the entry of Starbucks and conclude by challenging some of the normative implications derived from theories of salience.