|Thu July 3 2008 09:03:35|
What Does This Have to do with eBay?
By: David Steiner
The other evening, as I was multi-tasking, I happened to catch a story on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on a topic I ordinarily wouldn't have paid much attention to: Coffee.
The story centered around the closing of 600 Starbucks stores and 12,000 employee layoffs. While I love a good cup of brew in the morning, I don't own stock in Starbucks and I don't actually care much for their coffee. But what struck me was the storyline about a company that has fallen on recent hard times. Starbucks stock has lost nearly half its value in the past year, and traffic to the stores is down for the first time since the company's inception.
Perhaps it's the economy - $5 for a Cafe Latte may be one of those luxuries that people are cutting out of their budget. Competition from other restaurants that offer specialty coffee - McDonalds and Burger King, for example - may have cut into Starbucks' business. Or maybe the company has become oversaturated, as evidenced by the jokes about a Starbucks building a Starbucks inside a Starbucks.
But what the company itself has determined is that they have become too corporate, and have lost the appeal that made Starbucks so popular. According to the story, "It may be, in its drive to expand, Starbucks, which defined the coffee experience for many Americans, inadvertently ceded that experience to other, smaller coffee shops."
Seattle area marketing analyst Harvey Hartman made this observation, "What consumers are starting to sense is that Starbucks is losing this authentic, local, unique kind of "real" experience and is really become more bureaucratic, more mediocre, not as exploratory and as fun as it once was."
In an effort to regain some of their mocha mojo, Starbucks brought back CEO Howard Schultz, credited with much of the early wild success of Starbucks, at the beginning of this year to try to lift the company out of its quagmire. The stores will be grinding beans again in their stores (for the aroma), and replacing some of the equipment behind the counters to make ordering your coffee a more personal experience. In essence, Starbucks is exploring their roots to find a direction for their future.
So what does this have to do with eBay? Maybe nothing. Or perhaps it illustrates that it's never too late to wake up and smell the coffee.
An MP3 file of the news story can be downloaded here