Portland, Oregon - http://www.cafemama.com
Sarah Gilbert is a blogger by trade and a finance geek at heart. She cut her teeth on her first Excel spreadsheet full of financials at the tender age of 21, when she began her investment banking career in First Union's Loan Syndications group. She went on to get her MBA from Wharton, work at Merrill Lynch and fall in love with analyzing company strategy and endless rows of numbers. So she tried her hand at *setting* strategy, working for a number of exciting and under-discovered startups in various product management roles, all of which seemed to center around writing business plans and, yes, making spreadsheets. She got into blogging as a marketing strategy and loved it so, it took. She now blogs about finance while her three little boys are asleep in her beloved 1912 Portland home.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has finely crafted his publicity around yesterday's unveiling of Starbucks VIA, the instant coffee product to be sold at Starbucks
) outlets starting next month. In a blog post at the Huffington Post, Schultz wrote
that "the brands that endure are those that adapt to the changing needs of their customers, without forsaking their core values," and that his company believes "introducing a paradigm-changing and better-tasting instant coffee is a way to bring quality and value to the mass market, and to turn on a whole new set of coffee drinkers to the Starbucks brand."
My initial reaction was one of incredulity
; but I was surprised that many commenters seemed excited
about the product. And in yesterday's taste test conducted by WalletPop and BloggingStocks staffers
in New York City, the general reaction was that the product tastes good; and was attractively packaged. Will customers actually buy it?
I wondered. The answer to that is yet to be determined, but I can't help wondering if all the pundits are wrong.
Continue reading Starbucks 'VIA' instant coffee tastes good, but less profit-filling?
While customers may not realize how appropriate it is to be picking meat off the bones of chicken wings in hard times (I'll bet many a Depression-era cook made two chicken wings into a whole family's meal), investors are happily cashing in on the meaty prospects of Buffalo Wild Wings
) this week. After reporting a shocker of a quarter -- up 28.7% over the year-earlier quarter with $7.7 million, or $0.43 per share, on revenue $121.2 million -- investors were heartened. It was just three months ago that BWLD missed expectations
with net income of $4.6 million, or $0.25 per share, on revenues of $106.1 million. Same-store sales at company-owned stores were up 6.8% in the third quarter compared to a 4.5% growth in the fourth quarter.
Continue reading Buffalo Wild Wings: Fatten you up?
At about 10:20 EST, Continental Flight 3407 (also reported as 1304), a commuter plane out of Newark, crashed into a home in Buffalo, New York
. According to reports, all 48 people aboard
-- 44 passengers and four crew members -- and one person on the ground were killed.
The scene is currently engulfed in flames. The plane had been quite late departing Newark was arriving two hours past its scheduled time when it crashed about 10 miles from Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The Q400 Bombardier aircraft was flying in fog, snow and wind.
After last month's crash landing of a US Airways flight
, airline stocks have taken quite a hit, all down as much as 50% since their highs in early January. Good news for the crew of flight 1549 did not translate into good news for US Airways
), and certainly not for Continental Airlines Inc.
). Though the airline's stock will likely see big volatility at the start of trading on Friday, I don't expect this news to majorly impact the fortunes of either Continental or US Airways over the next 30 days.
As promised last week, here it is: Starbucks Corp.
) and the "breakfast pairings at an attractive price," a.k.a. value meals. For $3.95, customers can purchase either a 12-ounce (tall) latte with a coffee cake or oatmeal; or a tall coffee with a breakfast sandwich. What's more, the company is rolling out new (to some areas) "artisan" sandwiches with bacon and ham, no, let's let Starbucks describe it
: a "flavorful bakery-style sandwich made with a parmesan egg frittata, smoked bacon slices, and Gouda cheese on a perfectly-baked hand-shaped artisan roll;" and "a delightful combination made with a parmesan egg frittata, three slices of Black Forest ham, and mild cheddar on a perfectly-baked hand-shaped artisan roll." The new menu options and pricing will be available March 3.
Continue reading Starbucks reveals details on budget breakfast
A standoff between
two of the nation's largest periodical wholesalers and magazine publishers over a seven-cent surcharge could keep popular celebrity and news magazines out of most Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
) outlets this week. Some Walgreen and CVS stores would also be affected. The two wholesalers, Anderson News and Source Interlink Cos, deliver to 3,000 of Wal-Mart's 4,200 stores, and they are charging a seven-cent surcharge per magazine, which publishers like Time Warner Inc.
), Bauer Publications, and American Media refuse to pay.
A Wal-Mart spokesperson said that some stores would be without magazines this week, but wouldn't give specifics about titles or the number of stores. However, it was clear that the majority of stores would be affected; and the titles owned by the objecting companies include People
, National Enquirer
, and Life & Style
. Popular celeb titles Us Weekly
were not subject to the standoff.
Continue reading Wal-Mart shoppers: Get your People and Enquirer fix elsewhere
In a bid to make quick-service restaurant writers blare the "predictable" alarm, Starbucks Corp.
) has again moved into McDonald's
) territory with what Howard Schulz calls "breakfast pairings at attractive prices."
I'm pretty sure that when I turn to our desk reference guide of corporate sayings, that is the definition for "value menu."
Perhaps they don't invite me to press briefings any more, because they knew that when Howard said this in a talk to investors last week, I would have shouted something about "differentiation" and "McDonald's" and "not." Starbucks is apparently revealing more details about its value menu this week, when we will learn if the meal deals -- I mean, "breakfast pairings" -- are about the same price as a McDonald's McCafe coffee drink matched up with, say, a sausage McMuffin or something.
This couldn't be a more obvious ploy to attract customers who have been wooed away from Starbucks by McDonald's lower prices and less pretension, not to mention what one customer called the "richer-tasting" drinks. Which is, I believe, a euphemism for "more like a milkshake and less like a cup of coffee." While it's admirable to target customers with better prices in this economy, the clear struggle for McDonald's customers has me scratching my head. Were these really ever the appropriate customer base for Starbucks in the first place? I believe this is what had Starbucks pointed in the wrong direction for the past few years: the endless and meaningless struggle to be all beverages and foods to all people.
Continue reading Starbucks value menu: McBucks is here
I didn't watch much of the Super Bowl, but my husband called me in to watch the GoDaddy ads; I have several domains registered through the company, and they were ... memorable. It was of little surprise that, as soon as I reacted in horror to the courtroom advertisement in which a woman, with obvious breast enhancements, shows the court a little too much of her cleavage, I started seeing the "tweets" from dozens of the people
I follow on Twitter. Those who weren't already divested of GoDaddy claimed outrage, and began to wonder if they should pull their domains.
This morning, I watched in amazement as "#nodaddy
" became a trending topic on Twitter. Not only were both men and women in equal numbers angry about the misogynistic ad, but people were actually changing their domain registrar; a difficult process that can take hours of waiting on hold. A list of GoDaddy alternatives
was making the rounds; no one at all was suggesting they'd buy a domain from the company because of salacious excitement.
Naturally, the Twitter audience is likely already familiar with the company, so the simple name recognition play the company continues to chase wouldn't work with the million-strong "niche." But perhaps this niche is also the sort which registers domain names in enough quantities to affect the company's sales; in my opinion, it was an attention-getter that went so far over the edge, sales are now hurtling toward a chasm. (Here is a chart of gains and losses in top domain companies
; tomorrow's figures will be telling, but for now, losses nearly equal gains, whereas they are usually about half.) Whether or not GoDaddy survives the firestorm of negative opinion, one thing is certain: we now know where the line is. Also, women both watch football, and register domain names, and future ad companies might do well to remember this.
In a previous post about the medium
I call "periodicals printed on paper," I wrote that the universe of magazines and newspapers was being winnowed, and only the very best would survive. As my mind's eye darted around a mental image of a newsstand, a few periodicals stood out as "best"; Martha Stewart Living
chief among them. MSL
has not just created a loyal following and niche audience; it is a symbol of an entire subset of the population, an aspirational icon who is, while not exactly an ordinary person herself, creates a mostly achievable lifestyle. Her magazine will always represent the soul of the DIY culture; not for nothing do people say of any well-executed craft, especially one involving vintage pieces found at a thrift store, "that's so Martha!"
Continue reading Could Martha Stewart Living mag be troubled?
About a half of an hour ago, a rumor came from Twitter news source on all-things media, @themediaisdying: a rumor that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, one of two daily newspapers in Seattle, Wash., was officially closing. Only a few minutes later, the report: rumor confirmed. And then, seconds before I was about to hit "publish," the information was declared "bad" and the report rescinded. Dozens of media insiders were buzzing with the almost-news and the fact remained: the paper will close if a backer isn't found in the next few weeks.
Continue reading Seattle Post-Intelligencer close to closing: But not THAT close
Managers at Peanut Corporation of America must be thanking the country whose name the company invokes so boldly in its name: that it is not China. For were Peanut Corporation of America Chinese, managers would surely be facing the death penalty. Today officials at the FDA revealed that the Georgia plant responsible for the salmonella outbreak currently linked to eight deaths and 500 sicknesses across the country -- and leading to recalls of more than 100 products -- knowingly shipped peanut butter contaminated with salmonella
In a dozen tests over a two-year period, internal testing revealed salmonella in peanut butter at the plant, but it was shipped, anyway. The plant was riddled with four separate strains of salmonella in tests conducted by the CDC. Panicky consumers (me, for instance) have already started to forgo purchasing other peanut butter products from manufacturers not linked to the recall.
Continue reading Peanut Corp. knew salmonella was in its peanut butter
I am amazed by my fellow mothers' equanimity. Here are the headlines, and they are coming steadily, dropping bit by bit over the days:
What I expect is this: mothers will rise up en masse
, toting signs and babies, marching on Washington, D.C. and Battle Creek, demanding that manufacturers start putting better ingredients in our food, and while they're at it, have the FDA take more accountability. And stop spending our tax dollars to subsidize the industry that's creating a health crisis in our country by pushing cheap sweeteners into everything
Continue reading Mercury and PB recall hits organic, natural foods
In a month of crushing layoffs, 1,000 may seem but a blip. But at Starbucks
), where the past 18 months have seen thousands of job cuts, and the stock creates new five-year lows on an almost weekly basis, this news could devastate its generally loyal employee base. A third of corporate employees, district managers and field employees could all be subject to a cut predicted by Seattle analyst Dianne Dagger
. In an email to clients of her brokerage firm, McAdam's Wright Ra gen, Dagger said to expect the layoffs in the next few weeks.
Will layoffs on the bureaucratic level encourage or discourage "partners," the most sensitive faces of the company? While layoffs always freak the lower levels of a company a bit, it could be that they end up being more important than ever -- and when you're needed, you feel loved. A company in which employees feel loved is a company whose success is virtually guaranteed.
Management has a long way to go, though, before its employees will truly feel valued. CEO Howard Schultz' many company re-inventions have come fast and furious, without much of a unifying theme; and often with mixed messages from corporate chiefs. Early comments at Starbucks Gossip.com
were not encouraging; one shift leader who commented said he'd already moved on to a new job, and a customer said his post-holiday experience was less than thrilling. I believe, though, if Starbucks protects its Batista's and finds a better way of incorporating the line employees' feedback into corporate strategy, the company may have a chance.
In after-market trading, the stock was down a bit from its $9.08 close, to about $9.02 at 5:30 p.m.
I remember 2003. Our DVD player broke, I don't know what happened, it must have been something insignificant: we didn't really pay much attention. They were less than $75 at the local electronics megamart. We bought a new one. My laptop went on the fritz; I couldn't figure out how to turn it on. Must have been a boot virus, said someone who seemed to know. Bye-bye laptop, I got a new one at work and added it to the pile of broken electronics I planned to dispose of someday.
This sort of attitude won't work in today's economy. It's not just that people are more broke today, and can't afford to buy new things. It's that stuff is taking on a new sort of value; more and more Americans are worried about the environment and would rather fix their old things than buy new ones, or go without. Goodbye throwaway economy, hello Mr. and Ms. Fixit.
In an environment where many people are out of work
and those that aren't, are worried about job losses, the decision about whether to fix or buy new isn't just an economic one; it's also a statement about how well individuals can care for their resources. A recent survey stated that people were 82% more likely to repair
a broken electronic good rather than replacing it than just a year ago. The blind optimism of the past several years has been supplanted by a kind of values-driven determination: we'll make do with what we have, we'll take care of our goods and simplify our lives, we'll fix what is broken, we'll use what we have.
Circuit City is liquidating its stores, and this is not about a failed business strategy or an incompetent management team (though those may have been problems, too, but in a different economy they wouldn't have sunk the company). This is about a whole new way of looking at consumerism. Companies would do well to replace the planned obsolescence of the late 20th century with a new commitment to quality, longevity, service, sustainability. Fix it, or die, just like my DVD player.
The FTC won't give up its battle with Whole Foods
) over the company's long-complete merger with Wild Oats Markets, but an agreement has been reached between Whole Foods and a small, local organic and natural foods' grocery, New Seasons Market. About six weeks ago in the New Seasons blog, popular CEO Brian Rohter highlighted an invasive subpoena
received from Whole Foods' attorneys, claiming that his company's secrets are party to the FTC/Whole Foods dispute. The subpoena demanded a wide variety of documents, including all documents relating to competition with Whole Foods or Wild Oats; financial information, by store; market studies and strategic plans; and all plans for future stores, expansion and renovation. Local shoppers and business owners cried foul; the subpoena, many believed, was Whole Foods playing dirty pool.
Today, thanks to pressure from both the local and national community, Whole Foods came to an agreement with New Seasons whose terms weren't released, but in which the small Pacific Northwest chain will be required to release far less sensitive information. Rohter wrote that he was "pleased"
with the outcome.
It could be that Whole Foods has far bigger fish to fry than whatever advantage it could have gained from New Seasons. The FTC recently asked a judge to order Whole Foods to bring back the Wild Oats signs
, and to voluntarily halt whatever integration it still hasn't completed. What's more, rumors that the company is a takeover target
could be distracting management as they (depending on these reports' truth) spin the rumor mill or wheel and deal with the potential acquirers. On the days' news, the stock was down 21 cents to $12.16, about four dollars higher than its five-year low, recorded just before Thanksgiving in November 2008.
Could tea by the unlikely savior of Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ: SBUX)? The company unveiled three new full-leaf tea lattes on January 3. Each of them uses the new fat full-leaf Tazo tea bags; a tea-drinking experience rarely found in coffee shops. And they're good.
While some may have thought the green tea latte idea was odd at best, disgusting at worst (I'll raise my hand here), these new tea lattes are a pleasant balance of flavors and a totally different experience than Starbucks' overpowering coffee drinks and super-sweet blended drinks. I ordered the London Fog tea latte yesterday, a mix of Earl Grey-style tea, vanilla syrup (I ordered it with 1/3 the regular amount of vanilla syrup), and steamed milk, and it was frothy and lovely. The other two options, Black Tea and Vanilla Rooibos, are essentially the same concept with different tea blends (the Rooibos is caffeine-free), and both seem popular, too.
I'd resisted the concept at first, but soon my Twitter stream was flooded with Starbucks customers in love with the London Fog. (For the record, plenty of people think it tastes terrible too, but the lovers seem to be in the majority.) Both other new tea lattes, and the fruit-tea infusions, are getting good reviews all over.
Could this be Starbucks' savior? Perhap. The tea lattes, essentially branding the drink the British and Indian people have perfected over centuries, are a great way to open the chain up to a different sort of experience for all-day visitors and customers who want to meet friends at Starbucks but don't drink coffee. Now, instead of ordering the cheapest drink on the menu, coffee avoiders can find something special (and pricey) to call their own. Those of us who like coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon can cozy up to the London Fog. It's a smart move, and one that could develop into a game changer should Starbucks handle the training well. I'm cautiously optimistic that Starbucks' future is (partly) steeped in tea.
< Previous Page | Next Page >