Lines will be forming on August 28 at many of the 14,000 or so Starbucks SBUX +0.61% in the U.S. when the pumpkin spice latte makes its annual arrival.
As a friend of mine likes to say, it’s fall, it’s getting brisk, and the pumpkin spice latter is back. But it’s questionable whether the crowd-pleasing latte can make a dent in Starbucks’ growing woes.
In June 2018, Starbucks announced that it was closing 150 stores in the U.S., about three times the number it normally eliminates. Its comparative store sales have been flat because of several factors, including accommodating mobile sales, which seems to have slowed down getting in and out rather than speeding it up.
In the first quarter 2018, CEO Kevin Johnson noted that the chain's new specialty drinks weren’t “resonating” with consumers. He also acknowledged, “We must move faster to address the more rapidly changing preferences and needs of our customers.” Its stock price has been flat, rising a mere 1% over the last year, when the market has risen
But the pumpkin spice latte has struck a chord with Starbucks aficionados, to the tune of 350 million sold since it was introduced in 2003. Maggie Jantzen, a Starbucks spokesperson, says it consist of “real pumpkin, espresso, steamed milk, and fall spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove.” Starbucks tantalizes customers, suggesting it’s only available “while supplies last.”
Asked how much the pumpkin spice latte delivers to Starbucks’ bottom line, Jantzen said she was not at liberty to share that information.