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The habits of Spanish consumers have changed enormously over the last 20 years. Not long ago, it would have been hard to bet on the success of an American nonsmoking coffee shop in Madrida city rich in quiet and musty-smelling caf�s for older people, and vibrant and crowded bars for younger ones. But nowadays, Madrid’s urban coffee-lovers consider a stop at Starbucks a must before going back to their offices after a lunch break. On many levels, Starbucks’s success reflects a notable change in the habits of the country’s middle and upper classes. As Spain’s economy evolved from a third-world to a first-world one, more disposable income, increased job opportunities, and less leisure time affected every aspect of consumers’ purchases. Aging Demographics Other factors shape Spaniards’ spending. The country’s population is aging, and its birthrate is down. Older people, in particular, spend their money on financial security: mortgages, pension funds, insurance products, and fixed-income investment products. Younger adults, according to recent studies, shell out euros for leisure products or activities, travel, and telecommunications (including standard and cellular phones). These new trends are hard to miss. In Spain’s urban neighborhoods, cell phone use on the streets is ubiquitous; it’s not uncommon to find people, plug or phone in ear, frantically talking to invisible interlocutors. At The Table Nowhere have the changes in consumption habits been more evident than when it comes to food. Spain used to be a country of heavy, elaborate, structured meals, around which the family would gather for lunch and dinner. No longer. Women’s entrance into the workforce has obviously been a major part of this change. But there have been other factors, including an increased interest in “natural” foods and health-related products and a general obsession with diets. Food shopping is now done less often, and frozen food is increasingly popular. There has also been an important shift in the perception of what is “natural,” and precooked or frozen meals are now accepted, if their raw ingredients were fresh. Also, there is a growing market for diet products, and “light” or low-calorie products. Brushing Off E-Commerce The magic wand of the Internet will likely further modify shopping habits. Compared with other consumers in Europe, Spanish shoppers have been slower to use the Internet for e-commerce. There are a number of explanations for this trend, including the high cost of connection rates. (Flat rates are a relatively new phenomenon in Spain, and the fiber-optic infrastructure is weak.) But there are other reasons for Spaniards’ reluctance to surf the Net, and those issues are more difficult to address. For many people in Spain, shopping still remains a social or recreational event that requires interaction with the seller. That may be due to the country’s warm weather, which makes it tempting, for much of the year, to stroll outdoors, or to the Latin character, which is known for being open and gregarious. Whatever the reason, Spaniards appear to be less fascinated than their European neighbors are with technology and prefer other, more interactive, forms of leisure or consumption. Perhaps Starbucks got lucky. It blended American coffee with Spaniards’ love of socializing. But other American consumer companies, particularly those that want to court Spaniards online, will have to find a different formula for success. Mar�a Gracia Rubio is a partner at Baker & McKenzie in Madrid and Jos� Antonio Mor�n is a senior associate at the firm’s main office in Chicago.

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