Starbucks' Sales Slump Due To Social Media Boycott, Says Analyst

Zinger Key Points
  • BofA Securities analyst Sara Senatore reiterates a Buy rating.
  • Sara Senatore attributes the precipitous slowdown in same store sales growth to social media calls to boycott Starbucks.

BofA Securities analyst Sara Senatore reiterated a Buy rating on the shares of Starbucks Corp SBUX with a price target of $108.00.

The analyst rejects management's explanation of consumer caution, value seeking, and lagging throughput for the same store sales growth collapse in second-quarter FY24 earnings.

Instead, the analyst attributes the precipitous slowdown to social media calls to boycott Starbucks over tensions in the Middle-East.

Boycott related hashtags were 10,000x higher on the Oct. 23 peak (21,800) than they were on the Oct. 3 trough. Volume spiked to an all-time high on Jan.13 (47,000) before reaching lower peaks in early Feb., mid-March and early-April, noted the analyst.

A 2017 incident where Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc CMG was under intense media scrutiny after a Virginia store was identified as the source of a Norovirus outbreak led to a spike in tweets but it did not dent sales as traffic driving initiatives like innovation, advertising propelled the business forward.

Also ReadFormer CEO Schultz Urges Starbucks Overhaul Amid Sales Slump: Report

Some subset of SBUX customers are choosing not to patronize the brand, but SBUX serves 80 million unique customers annually, suggesting ample room to increase purchase frequency among the remaining customer base, said the analyst.

Marketing is critical, both through the app and through paid channels and the analyst is optimistic about the expansion of the app to non-rewards members and mobile ordering to platforms outside the app.

According to the analyst, Starbucks now trades at forward earnings multiples (EV/EBITDA and P/FE) lower than that of Wendy's Co WEN and Papa John's International Inc PZZA and 15-25% lower than global limited service restaurants like McDonald's Corp MCDRestaurants Brands International QSR, and Yum! Brands Inc YUM.

Given the intrinsic value of the brand, the analyst views this discount as unwarranted.

Price Action: SBUX shares are trading lower by 0.12% at $76.02 at the last check Monday.

Photo by Manu Padilla on Shutterstock

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