It's been a distressing and depressing week in America, what with the spinning wheel of job cuts. Round and round it goes --- AstraZeneca, Kodak and Oshkosh now joining other scions of American industry Caterpillar, GM, Pfizer, Home Depot and Sprint with massive workforce reductions. And where it stops, nobody knows.
It certainly isn't stopping at your neighborhood Starbucks, where jobs continue to leak out faster than you can say "Venti No Whip Mocha, please." The coffee company, which has been called one of the new economic bellweathers of our times, announced another 7,000 job cuts this week and 300 more store closings. Americans are well past "The Sipping Point": most of us stopped buying $5 lattes long ago.
But this is something deeper.
A year ago, when Starbucks founder Howard Schultz took back the reigns of his company and started swinging the cost-cutting ax, he said his mission was to save the "soul of Starbucks," return it to its roots. But at this point, it's less about soul and more about saving the business - period. When announcing this week's painful new reductions, Schultz's memo to employees ended with the following plea:
"The decisions we make are about preserving the future of Starbucks. And I can promise you that I and the leadership team will do all that we can to put us in a position to emerge strong on the other side of this crisis, and stay true to our values and culture."
Perhaps Starbucks needs to stop and think about the coffee culture it created, and begin something of a retraining program with its core customers and a retooling of its business model. Instead of brewing decaf on demand in the afternoons and evenings.....close the store. I'm sure customers would find someplace else to go -- like home or the library.
Using operating hour reductions instead of store closures and mass layoffs, Starbucks would not only save money on its own bottom line, but also save some sorely needed jobs and keep stores from being boarded up in some increasingly economically challenged neighborhoods.
Also, maybe bag the whole Starbucks Entertainment thing, as well as the in-store merchandising. And while you're at it, how about nixing those "Black Apron Exclusive" rare coffees. The majority of your customers walk into a store, order a coffee off the board, sit awhile, then leave. They are NOT shopping for music, books, or more coffee makers and cups to clutter their cupboards.
Simplistic solution? Probably, especially for a publicly held company which reports to a board of directors. But maybe those corporate types should be thinking beyond the boardroom and weigh the impact job-centric cost-cutting measures have on the country as a whole. Because while mass layoffs and closures may immediately help the bottom lines of the biggest companies in the nation --- in the big picture these job cuts are delivering fatal blows to an already staggering economy which no one seems sure how to save.
If Howard Schultz really wants to save Starbucks, perhaps he should think out-of-the-box and start saving consumer confidence and the economy by saving some jobs and stores. It would not only be perceived as a positive move by an economic bellweather business, but would also be good for Starbuck's soul.
And maybe, just maybe, a grateful nation would thank them by buying a few more $5 lattes.