It took about a year, but Starbucks (SBUX 0.26%) is growing again. The coffee giant this week announced double-digit percentage sales growth to mark a likely end to its pandemic slump.
The good news is the strength of that rebound has management feeling more optimistic about the rest of fiscal 2021, especially with respect to revenue, earnings, and cash flow.
Let's look at five standout numbers from the report.
1. The U.S. market grew 9%
Starbucks returned to growth in China earlier in the fiscal year, but the U.S. division has been lagging due to the later start the pandemic got in North America. That slump is over now. Comparable-store sales rose 9%, compared to the prior quarter's 5% drop. The metric was near the high end of management's late-January forecast and implies improving trends ahead. "Our results demonstrated impressive momentum in the business," CEO Kevin Johnson said in a press release.
2. China had a 124% sales spike
The China business added nearly $500 million to its sales footprint, translating into a 124% revenue spike. Sure, most of that spike is due to the comparison with last year, which included maximum retailing shutdown pressures in the face of COVID-19 social distancing.
But the rebound confirms the importance of this market while telegraphing similar growth spikes in places like the U.S. and Europe over the next few quarters. "We have positioned Starbucks," Johnson said, "for the inevitable great human reconnection that we see unfolding in the U.S. and will propagate in every market around the world."
3. Operating margin rose to 14.8% of sales
Starbucks' profitability is almost fully recovered, with adjusted operating margin having jumped to 14.8% of sales from 8.1% a year ago. The chain's digital business was a big factor in this rebound as it supported surging average spending per visit and a shift toward premium products like cold brews, refreshers, and breakfast sandwiches.
4. Cash flow was $2.7 billion
Cash flow trends best illustrate how much stronger Starbucks' position is today compared to a year ago. Over the last six months, it generated $2.7 billion of operating cash compared to just a $474 million boost in the year-ago period.
That success gives management plenty of resources it can direct toward its ambitious global growth plan in 2021 and beyond. That strategy relies on drive-through, digital ordering, and a flood of new drink and food platform releases to push customer traffic back into positive territory even as average spending per visit remains elevated. Starbucks also plans to invest $1.9 billion into store remodels this year.
5. The 2021 outlook calls for 16% operating margin
Executives simply affirmed a few key growth metrics, including expectations for U.S. comps ranging from 17% to 22% and China comps between 27% and 32%. Investors are still waiting to see full rebounds in areas like customer traffic, which fell 4% globally this past quarter.
But Starbucks is gaining optimism about its earnings power, with margin now expected to land at between 15% and 16% of sales compared to the prior forecast of between 14% and 15%. That increase will translate into slightly higher earnings.
Its updated target for $29 billion of global revenue in 2021 marks a sharp turnaround from the pandemic-influenced $23.5 billion the chain generated last year. But it would also set a new annual sales record for the business heading into an even stronger period for consumer mobility in 2020.