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Starbucks says PSL loyalty remains strong, driving record sales

Starbucks reported record sales in the fourth quarter, thanks in part to loyal pumpkin spice latte lovers.  (Getty Images)
By Renata Geraldo Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Starbucks fans remained loyal to their pumpkin spice latte order and other seasonal offerings this fall, helping the company report record sales in the fourth quarter.

The Seattle-based coffee giant reported a record $9.4 billion in sales, an increase of 11% from the same period last year, according to the results of the July-to-September period announced Thursday.

Starbucks introduced the PSL, as it is commonly known, two decades ago. The drink has been the company’s most popular seasonal beverage. A fall staple for Starbucks fans, it hit stores in late August and drove record-breaking weekly sales, along with seasonal offerings such as the apple croissant.

For the full fiscal year of 2023, the company reported $36 billion in revenue, or 12% growth from the previous year.

“We’ve delivered more beverages, food and personalization and customization,” Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan said in a call with investors Thursday. “Our continued investments in our partners, equipment, supply chain and technology are paying off.”

Ahead of Starbucks’ annual update of its reinvention plan, the company said Thursday that it opened 816 new stores worldwide in the quarter, including 515 in North America. In the previous third quarter, the company reported 542 new stores in North America.

Last year, Starbucks announced a $450 million plan to revamp the company. The plan, called “reinvention plan,” focused around opening new stores, with a focus on drive-thru, and updating machines to make the drinks, especially cold drinks. These cold drinks, including frappuccinos, make up 75% of Starbucks’ beverage sales.

Narasimhan also said Thursday it is ahead of its schedule on the reinvention plan goals and that investments on employees have decreased “attrition.” Employee retention is also improving, according to the company.

CEO Narasimhan said in the investor call that the next step is creating a strong operating foundation for new stores.

“That is going to really help us as we create the infrastructure, we create the store footprint,” Narasimhan said.

The company ended its fiscal year with 38,000 stores globally. By the end of the 2024 fiscal year, Starbucks expects to open an additional 3,000 stores worldwide.

Despite the strong results, Starbucks’ forecast for next year is more moderate as it weathers economic uncertainty.