At this year's meeting, held in Seattle on Wednesday, there was nothing in the way of buzz, and Schultz introduced nothing new, except for a focus on "value" and a fresh effort to squash the "myth" that "there is a $4 cup of coffee at Starbucks."
Problem is, it's not really a myth. Some of Starbucks' coffee drinks do cost $4 and even more. But even when they cost less, they are still an extravagance. And in a recession, extravagances are the first thing to go.
These are tough times for Starbucks. It's been closing stores by the hundreds and laying off workers by the thousands. Fewer people have been going to Starbucks. Same-store sales dropped by 3 percent in 2008. Before that, of course, Starbucks drove its business through expansion. It went way too far, "watering down the Starbucks experience," as Schultz himself once put it, and turning off customers. Now, the recession has thrust Starbucks into an existential crisis—one that is largely of its own making.