Retail

Starbucks's 12 Months of Christmas


Starbucks (SBUX) has Christmas down to a science. The sweet and spicy aromas, Bing Crosby tunes, and red aprons are rolled out after many months of meetings and tastings. And nothing is final until Howard Schultz, who co-founded the company 40 years ago, says it’s all Christmas-perfect. Last year, Starbucks took in $2.95 billion during its holiday quarter. To figure out what message would jolly up coffee drinkers this holiday season, the company began surveying customers in stores and online more than a year ago. The conclusion? Marketing Senior Vice-President Terry Davenport reports that after a couple of years of austerity, consumers are ready to “have a holiday.” A gingerbread latte to that!

Gifts

Getting a jump on christmas:
Christmas Blend coffee and other holiday tchotchkes were available on StarbucksStore.com starting on Nov. 1–a full two weeks before the merch hits cafes.
 
U.S. sales of Starbucks gift cards averaged 42 per second during last year’s holiday season.
 
The gift cards are available in six all-new motifs this year, with culturally varied greetings such as Joyous Kwanzaa and Feliz Noche Buena.
 
Winterludes, Starbucks’s first holiday compilation CD, was released in 1995. This year’s Let It Snow features carols from Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, and Fiona Apple.

Flavors

Starbucks introduced its Christmas Blend in 1985. The company’s cuppers–expert coffee tasters–spend three months perfecting the medley. The mix is tweaked each year, but the cuppers go for a consistent sweet/spicy/smooth taste. This year’s blend includes Latin American and aged Sumatran beans. A 1 lb. bag goes for $14.95.
 
Sales of pumpkin spice lattes rose 44% in September from a year ago.
 
New this holiday season:
the Skinny Peppermint Mocha, a low-fat version of a seasonal favorite that premiered five years ago. (110 Calories in a tall Skinny Peppermint Mocha vs. 320 Calories in a regular with whipped cream)

Cups

Introduced in 1997, Starbucks’s seasonal red cups are “one of the first signs that holiday is just around the corner,” says Davenport.
 
Even before the last batch of holiday cups rolled off the production line this summer, discussions were under way about cup designs for holiday 2012.
 
Manufactured by International Paper in Ohio and California: “We are responsible for delivering perhaps the most visible element of Starbucks’s holiday message each year, which is an effort our entire team at International Paper takes a great deal of pride and ownership in,” says company spokesman Tom Ryan.

Decor

The official cast of characters that grace cups, coffee packaging, and store decorations is brought to you by Starbucks’s team of 80 in-house designers. Look for a snowman, ice skaters, a nutcracker, a boy and dog on a sled, and carolers, plus a menagerie of woodland creatures.
 
Baristas swap their traditional Starbucks-green aprons for festive red ones. Only six are distributed to each store.

Treats

This year, Starbucks introduced a line of petite desserts to commemorate its 40th birthday. Holiday versions, selected from among 150 possibilities, include a peppermint brownie cake pop (170 calories) and a chocolate creme whoopie pie (190 calories).

Patton is a reporter for Bloomberg News in Chicago.

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