Starbucks' earnings: Do they prove customers value bargains?

Will Starbucks' (SBUX) value-based bets of 2009 -- the "new day" the company has advertised on sweet welcome signs on its store doors, in splashy reveals in New York and Seattle, in glossy ads -- pay off in beautiful earnings for its second fiscal quarter of 2009?

Management doesn't offer guidance, so it's up to analysts to make the projections (but, as with last quarter, the company still disappoints when its falls short -- 15 cents a share for the first fiscal quarter was two cents shy of analyst projections). Always the optimists, analysts have again determined the quarter should come in at about 17 cents a share, due to falling milk prices and a bargain on utility costs compared to expectations. And though many coffee analysts seem positively bitter about the economy's effect on premium beverage consumption, especially that from "Four Bucks," the company's stock has rebounded nearly 30 percent from its low in the $10 range after its last quarter's results, to $13.67 by the end of the day's trading.

So even though investors pooh-pooh the company's prospects in a depressed economy; even though many look askance at the chain's strategy to compete against McDonald's with its $3.95 "breakfast pairings" and against Folger's with its Via instant coffee (analysts say it's "less than a dollar per serving," ignoring the fact that similar products are 6 to 10 cents per serving; it had better be a lot better at that price); Starbucks seems to have made its case with investors over the past few months.

Perhaps earnings aren't even the point today; investors are already hoping for the "new day" of the next quarter, and the next, and many quarters to come.

Update: Earnings were only three cents per share, or $25 million, after charges for store closings. Excluding charges, Starbucks earned 16 cents per share; same-store sales fell 8% both worldwide and in the U.S., a slight slowing from the last quarter, when sales were down 10% in the U.S. and 9% globally.


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