retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The Wall Street Journal has an interview with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in which he discloses that he is in the middle of drafting an end-of-year memo to the company entitled "Playing the Long Game," which is designed to make sure "that we don’t get seduced or intoxicated with either short-term results or short-term wins and that we’re in this to build a great, enduring company."

Schultz says that he's writing the memo because he is concerned that the company's growth - not just in terms of global locations, but also in terms of products that are sold both in Starbucks stores and supermarkets - could have the same impact as it did less than a decade ago, when he believes that it suffered from "hubris and a sense of entitlement."

He also says that "he doesn’t see the spate of high-quality coffee concerns such as Stumptown and Intelligentsia as competition. Still, Starbucks (traditionally known and at times criticized for its darker roasts) released a new lighter-roasted coffee called Blonde to appeal to the same customers. 'I think there’s a really important role for these independent coffee stores,' he adds. 'It creates jobs for people, and I think it raises the quality of coffee for the most part in America…and the more people who are exposed to better quality coffee is good for Starbucks'."

While I have not always been Schultz's biggest fan - I think he has a bit of a messiah complex - I do think that this is very smart. It falls into the category of not breathing your own exhaust, not believing all your own press clippings.

Or, as a friend of mine likes to say, it doesn't matter how iconic or legendary you are, because you actually were legendary and/or iconic yesterday. Today, you have to earn it all over again.

It is an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: