World’s biggest coffee chain cuts sales forecast and misses market expectations amid boycotts


Starbucks has cut its yearly sales forecasts and missed market expectations amid US and Middle East boycotts.

The world’s biggest coffee chain told investors on Tuesday night there was a “significant impact on traffic and sales” in the Middle East due to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

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The impact was also felt in the US as boycotts of the chain took place, chief executive Laxman Narasimhan told attendees of a post-quarterly earnings conference call.

Some had avoided Starbucks in the Middle East and US after it took legal action in October against Workers United for using Starbucks’s name and similar logo.

A post from the union’s social media account in October expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people before being deleted.

“We see protesters influenced by misrepresentation on social media of what we stand for,” Mr Narasimhan said in a December message to staff, which also said many stores had experienced incidents of vandalism.

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“As a leadership team, we want to again express our deepest sympathy for those who have been killed, wounded, displaced and impacted following the heinous acts of terror, escalating violence and hate against the innocent in Israel and Gaza this week,” the company’s vice president and chief partner officer Sara Kelly said.

Starbucks traffic slowed

But from mid-November US store traffic also slowed, Mr Narasimhan said.

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Its results for the first three months of the 2024 financial year came in below what analysts had forecast.

Starbucks recorded below estimate figures across the business.

These included a 5% rise in comparable sales in US stores.

Growing revenue

At the same time, record revenue of $9.43bn (£7.43bn) was reported in its first 2024 fiscal quarter but its sales outlook for the rest of the year was lowered as spending weakened in China and other markets.

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Rather than revenue increasing 10% to 12%, as forecast early in November, it was now expected to grow between 7% and 10%.

Similarly, sales at global outlets open at least a year would not rise at the previously expected level, Starbucks forecast.

Starbucks shares rose 3% following the results announcement, possibly as investors had been braced for a worse financial performance.

They were, however, 11% lower compared to a year ago.

The company is not the only brand to have faced a customer backlash over gripes related to the Middle East conflict in recent months, with McDonald’s among them.

It too has blamed “misinformation” on social media.

Separately, a boycott of Bud Light, made by the world’s biggest brewer AB InBev, led to a big drop in US sales.

Its quarterly results showed a 14% decline between July and September – similar to falls witnessed over the previous three months following the boycott, after it launched a marketing partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney last spring.

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