As customers increasingly shift their retail shopping toward e-commerce, Starbucks is bucking the trend: It shuttered its online store on Sunday.
The company posted a notice in late August on its online store notifying shoppers that the site would soon close. The digital store stocked items like Starbucks coffee and branded mugs and tumblers, along with a selection of espresso machines, brewing tools and other accessories.
“You can purchase your favorite coffee and Starbucks merchandise in your local Starbucks,” the company wrote in a note to customers about the closing of the online store. “We cannot guarantee availability of any product in stores, but we know you will find many choices to enjoy.”
Maggie Jantzen, a company spokeswoman, said that the decision to shut down the online store was part of a push to “simplify” Starbucks’ sales channels.
“We’re continuing to invest in amplifying Starbucks as a must-visit destination and are looking across our portfolio to make disciplined, thoughtful decisions,” Ms. Jantzen said.
The company’s chief executive, Kevin Johnson, spoke on Starbucks’ most recent earnings call about a “seismic shift” in retailing. To survive, he said, merchants need to create unique and immersive in-store experiences. (Starbucks decided in July to close its nearly 400 Teavana stores in malls, which, Mr. Johnson said, were “persistently underperforming.”)
Howard Schultz, the chairman of Starbucks, indicated a few months earlier that he had soured on digital sales.
“Every retailer that is going to win in this new environment must become an experiential destination,” Mr. Schultz told investors in April. “Your product and services, for the most part, cannot be available online and cannot be available on Amazon.”
Starbucks said it would continue to sell branded products like coffee through grocery stores and some online sites managed by its sales partners.
But it broke the hearts of some fans by ending retail sales of a cult-favorite product line: flavored syrups. The mixes used to concoct drinks like the Pumpkin Spice Latte are generally not for sale in the company’s stores, but Starbucks stocked them on its website.
Those days are over. “Syrups and sauces will no longer be available for retail purchase,” Ms. Jantzen confirmed.
Social media filled up with protestations and laments. “Are you discontinuing the toffee nut syrup sold on the online store??” a customer wrote to Starbucks on Twitter. “I need that!”
One beacon of hope remained: the gray market. On eBay, a jug of Starbucks pumpkin spice syrup could be had on Sunday for $100.
Correction: October 1, 2017
An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to Howard Schultz’s history with Starbucks. He joined the company in 1982 and bought it in 1987; he was not one of the company’s founders.
Via NY Times