Starbucks

Earlier this week at the Economic Club of New York, Howard Schultz, executive chairman of Starbucks Corp., sat down with Terry J. Lundgren, executive chairman of Macy’s Inc. and chairman of the club, to discuss Schultz’s “vision and leadership style.”

Analysts from Telsey Advisory Group attended the event, and later issued a research note touting efforts by Schultz and successor Kevin Johnson, chief executive officer, in making Starbucks “one of the largest, fastest-growing and most successful companies in the consumer discretionary space.” The company has annual sales of more than $22 billion and a market capitalization of $91 billion. In the trailing 12-month period, Starbucks posted revenue growth of 9 percent and pre-tax profit growth of 23 percent, according to S&P Capital IQ.

Some key points discussed during the session included building a brand with “compassion” while also seeing Starbucks not only as a coffee company, but a technology one. “We believe Schultz’s vision and leadership, shared by his successor ceo Kevin Johnson, has the company well-positioned for longer-term top- and bottom-line success, even though sometimes having the courage to make the right decision can lead to some short-term volatility,” the analysts said in their report.

The TAG report pointed out the importance of the company maintaining a “strong culture of value and beliefs” and doing so for the long term. In regard to technology, the TAG analysts said “it was Schultz’s vision for technology” that served as a “conduit for consumers through digital access, which has continued to spur the company to improve and expand its use through communication, order, payment and access.” Starbucks has more than 19 million users of its app.

Johnson took over the reins of the company in April. But during that transition, baristas were scolded for a “lost connection” with its customers. According to reports, an internal company statement was read aloud to employees by managers over the course of several weeks. Aside from reestablishing an in-store connection with customers, the company is turning to technology to improve the shopping experience.

During a conference call in late April, Johnson said the company is focused on its “digital relationships with customers” and how it intersects “with experiential retail in our stores. We are confident that we’re well on our way to further increasing overall store capacity while delivering an enhanced Starbucks experience to our customers.”

The TAG analysts noted that Starbucks, in the short term, “expects to further improve communication with its consumers through more personalized ‘push-notifications’ and add ‘social-gifting’ — both viewed as further conduits to improve [same-store sales] and traffic.”

TAG reiterated an “outperform” rating on the stock and a $66 price target. In midday trading, shares of Starbucks were up 0.6 percent to $63.26.

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