Like a kid buzzed out of his gourd on caffeine, Starbucks
Month after month, quarter after quarter, the coffee roaster, brewer, and seller meets the market head-on with outstanding results. It did so again late yesterday, with its December total and same-store sales results.
Last month was much sweeter for Starbucks than for most other retailers. Total sales were jolted by 22% to $418 million. Comparable-store sales improved an amazing 7%. The company keeps 'em coming back again... and again... and again.... Are we sure they aren't putting more than milk, sugar, and the occasional mocha in their drinks?
The Starbucks Card again contributed to the company's solid results, as did its holiday beverage lineup (Gingerbread Lattes!). With many retailers slashing prices to generate any hint of holiday sales, Starbucks, not surprisingly, stayed the course, price-wise. And its margins will be rewarded for it.
For the 13 weeks ended Dec. 29, comps were up 9%. Total sales for the quarter were a record $1 billion (cue Dr. Evil's voice). That's 25% ahead of last year's results.
Looking ahead, Starbucks will report first-quarter earnings Jan. 23. After that, it faces tests of its own success, as the stellar comps racked up throughout 2002 could become hurdles. Of course, we've been noting this possibility for years now, and Starbucks always seems to pull it off, somehow.
The only other possible hurdle on the horizon, then, is its stock price. It no doubt deserves a premium for its continued excellence, but how much of one? Shares are trading at about 32 times current fiscal year earnings. Even for the king of coffee, that seems pretty frothy. Then again, doubting Starbucks seems to be shaky grounds.
Disclaimer: LouAnn Lofton owns shares of Starbucks and can throw back a Grande Latte like nobody's business.