Starbucks Americas traffic ticks up in holiday quarter, new COO named

Thu Jan 22, 2015 6:36pm EST
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By Lisa Baertlein

(Reuters) - Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O: Quote) on Thursday said traffic to its Americas-region stores perked up during the holiday quarter, easing investor jitters about slower growth and boosting shares over 4 percent in after-hours trading.

The world's biggest coffee chain also announced that director Kevin Johnson would become Starbucks president and chief operating officer, effective March 1, replacing long-time executive Troy Alstead, who said he is taking an extended sabbatical to spend time with his family.

Starbucks shares jumped $3.36, or 4.1 percent, to $86.10 in extended trade.

Sales at Starbucks cafes open at least 13 months were up 5 percent for the U.S.-dominated Americas region in the first quarter that ended Dec. 28.

Traffic was up 2 percent, an acceleration from the 1 percent gain posted in the previous quarter. Starbucks' Americas region contributes the majority of company revenue.

Customer visits to Starbucks' Americas-region cafes had cooled for five straight quarters, causing some investors and analysts to worry that the company's increased focus on food had slowed service.

Starbucks Chief Financial Officer Scott Maw said traffic increased steadily over the quarter, which is Starbucks' most important for sales. Starbucks had 9 million more customer transactions in the United States during the quarter, versus the year earlier. Among other things, executives attributed the rise to the popularity of Starbucks new Chestnut Praline Latte, Teavana teas and the addition of new loyalty card members.   Continued...

The sign of a Starbucks store is seen in New York January 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Eric Thayer