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Solving Starbucks Problems – 4. Lack of Merchandise Focus



This is the 4th in a series of 5 posts where John Moore and I, two former Starbucks marketers, offer recommended changes based upon Howard Schultz’s email to his leadership team.


“The merchandise, more art than science, is far removed from being the merchant that I believe we can be and certainly at a minimum should support the foundation of our coffee heritage. Some stores don’t have coffee grinders, French presses from Bodum, or even coffee filters.” – Howard’s email

John does a thorough job taking us through a quick history lesson of how Starbucks has spun away from core coffee-related products.

John offers a Decision Making Guidelines for Starbucks to follow… IF/THEN statements to guide their decision making.

I would like to expand one of his guidelines, and offer an additional one.

To John’s first guideline…

“Does this product link directly to coffee? If yes, sell it. If no, don’t.”

I would like to modify this to read…

“Does this product link directly to the…
  1. …preparation of coffee? (60% priority) and/or
  2. …consumption of coffee? (30% priority) and/or
  3. …the enjoyment of ‘in-store Starbucks’ at home? (10% priority)

If yes, consider it. If not, don’t.”

I made this guideline more strict by limiting it to the preparation/consumption of coffee. In the past the selling of books, stationary, and staplers was considered “okay” because these are all things you could do while sipping a cup of coffee. I’m sure there are plenty of things we could imagine doing with a cuppa joe in-hand that aren’t appropriate in Starbucks.

I’ve added a priority scale… Starbucks should spend more time working on ways for me to make a great cup of coffee at home (60% of their energy) versus creating things to make my home more like Starbucks (10% of their energy).

I also made this filter a little broader by adding… “the enjoyment of in-store Starbucks at home.” The Starbucks music compilations are terrific. The team has created uncommonly good compilations of great music tracks. (This does not include the Top-40 CDs Starbucks sells that can be also purchased at any music store. These are common. If you want to be remarkable, only offer the uncommon).

An additional guideline I’d like to add is…

“Is this truly making the world a better place?”

Starbucks should be allowed the exception to sell just about anything if they are using the power of the number of locations, number of employees, and number of customers for good… to make the community or world a better place.

John mentions rumors that Starbucks may be creating a new music label called Starbucks Records. Using these guidelines, unless the full proceeds from the sales of Starbucks Records are donated to help charity… Starbucks may be undertaking an effort that: may dilute the brand, is not differentiating them from other record labels, and moves in an opposite direction the core.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

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