Big news went down yesterday. Starbucks is closing 600 existing locations, cutting new store openings even further, and significantly reducing its workforce. This is on top of recently announcing a major reduction in their Starbucks Entertainment foray.
It’s official … Starbucks is no longer in growth mode. They are in PRUNE MODE.
We’ve talked about the need for Starbucks to prune its unwieldy garden before. And that vintage post from March 2007 takes on new relevance today. To better understand why Starbucks is in PRUNE MODE, re-read this post from the Brand Autopsy archives…
first posted: March 17, 2007
“I have said for 20 years that our success is not an entitlement and now it’s proving to be a reality. Let’s be smarter about how we are spending our time, money and resources. Let’s get back to the core. Push for innovation and do the things necessary to once again differentiate Starbucks from all others.” — Howard Schultz email
Paul Williams began this conversation about restoring Starbucks “coffee” identity by using the analogy of restoring antique furniture to its original state. He says Starbucks should strip off the extra layers of paint that have collected over the years. From there, he recommends Starbucks sandpaper away the rough spots and then apply a durable finish to intensify and highlight the unique grain of the Starbucks core. Interesting …
Maintaining the Starbucks Garden
Paul’s analogy to restoring the Starbucks brand luster, like one would restore antique furniture, got me thinking about gardening. Paul and I once played around with this gardening analogy back in the day. We were probably chomping on a Briazz sandwich at Starbucks HQ when we began drawing the connections between the role of gardener and our role as marketers.
When you look at it, the Starbucks business resembles a garden landscape. Hear me out …
The seeds of the business were first planted in 1971 with the three original founders of Starbucks playing the role of company gardener. As company gardeners, they carefully worked with the soil in the Pacific Northwest until it became fertile ground. At first, the soil wasn’t fertile enough for the roots of the company to take hold and grow. But after years of dedication and daily nurturing, the hard soil became fertile and Starbucks began to not only grow deep, healthy roots—it also began to blossom. By 1992, the Starbucks garden landscape was thriving with new growth happening. Throughout the 90s, Starbucks flowers were always in full bloom and its garden landscape was growing, and growing, and growing.
Today, the Starbucks garden is still growing, but its growth is unwieldy. Company gardeners are having a hard time managing the garden’s growth. An increasing number of new plants have sprouted in the Starbucks garden that do not belong there. Coffee plants have always grown in the Starbucks garden but today, there are more and more plants in the garden that resemble nothing like coffee. The Starbucks garden has become so cluttered by wildflowers and weeds that it’s hard to recognize where the coffee plants are. Because of the wildflower and weed clutter, the Starbucks garden has lost its identity.
It’s become apparent—the Starbucks garden needs major maintenance. It needs pruning.
Pruning promotes healthy growth. By pruning, gardeners are able to remove unwanted, unneeded, and unhealthy plants as well as limbs from trees. This reduction of plants and tree limbs will allow for more light and air into the garden, thus allowing for wanted and needed plants to grow in a healthy, sustainable manner.
To promote healthy growth, Starbucks needs to prune its business by removing unwanted, unneeded, and unhealthy elements from its business. Prune its Merchandise assortment. Prune its Entertainment division. Prune its New Store expansion. Prune its Automation Efficiency projects. Prune its partnership with Jim Beam. Prune everything that is causing Starbucks to lose its identity of sourcing, roasting, and serving the highest-quality coffee.
These pruning efforts will allow for Starbucks to rejuvenate its soul and refertilize its reason for existing. Then, and only then, will the Starbucks garden be able to grow in a much healthier, sustainable manner.
For those seeking extra credit, read the entire SOLVING STARBUCKS PROBLEMS series of posts.