Starbucks sales dip due to China’s tough Covid-curbs

Starbucks Corp’s estimate for the remainder of the fiscal year was halted on Tuesday after sales growth fell short of Wall Street expectations due to China’s severe Covid-19 limitations.

Comparable sales in China, where the company has aggressively grown in recent years to exploit surging coffee demand, fell by 23%, eclipsing a 13% increase in North America.

Most multinational corporations with a large presence in China, like Apple, Gucci-parent Kering, and Taco Bell-owner Yum China, have been thrown off by China’s tight lockdown measures to achieve its zero-Covid policy.

In a conference call with investors, Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz remarked, “I remain certain Starbucks’ business in China will someday be greater than our company in the United States.”

Because of the timing of the lockdowns in Shanghai and the reappearance of the virus in Beijing and other locations, the business expects “much higher damage” on its third-quarter performance.

Despite this, demand at its U.S. outlets has been “relentless,” according to Schultz. Following the announcement, shares surged 5% in extended session.

“Demand and revenue are major drivers,” said Tigress Financial Partners’ chief investment officer, Ivan Feinseth. Tigress manages and owns Starbucks stock on behalf of its customers and accounts. “Despite the pandemic, everything is going well, and the United States’ strength offsets China’s weakness.”

Starbucks’ global comparable sales grew 7% in the second quarter, compared to 7.1 percent growth projected by experts surveyed by Refinitiv. Starbucks just welcomed Schultz back to manage the firm amid a surge of unionization at its U.S. outlets.

Out of the roughly 240 cafés that have wanted to hold elections since August, more than 50 have chosen to join the Workers United union.

Despite hiking compensation for store managers since last year, the firm will spend an extra $200 million in fiscal 2022 to improve training, relaunch its “Coffee Master” program for baristas, and build an internal app to interact directly with its 240,000 U.S. employees.

In addition, the firm will speed up the installation of new ovens and espresso equipment, as well as maintenance and repairs. It will also upgrade its consumer-facing app to provide clients with more realistic pick-up timings.

This fiscal year, the additional funds will bring overall investments in employees and cafés to $1 billion.

Customers will be allowed to add tips to their credit and debit card purchases by late 2022, according to Schultz, which is something that baristas at unionized outlets in Buffalo, New York, requested at the negotiating table.

“We can’t promise increased salaries or benefits at stores where union organizing is taking place because of federal law. And we can’t make unilateral adjustments at unionized locations,” Schultz remarked, adding that “the union contract won’t even come close to what Starbucks provides.”

Schultz stated that his current time as CEO is only temporary, and that he and the board of directors plan to designate a successor by the autumn, with the goal of that person taking over completely by the first calendar quarter of 2023. Schultz intends to stay on the board after that.

Labor, freight, and commodity expenses increased, reducing North American operating margins to 17.1 percent from 19.3 percent the previous year.

The business added 313 net new stores during the quarter, bringing total net sales to $7.64 billion, up from $6.67 billion a year before. Analysts had predicted sales of $7.59 billion for the quarter.

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