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At Starbucks’ annual meeting yesterday, CEO Howard Schultz told shareholders that “Starbucks Coffee Co. will not only survive but we will succeed during this environment. I promise you that."

According to the Business Week coverage, “Schultz said he plans to dispel the myth that all Starbucks coffee drinks cost $4 -- a perception that has helped competitors like McDonald's Corp. break into the espresso beverage market. A tall Starbucks' drip coffee goes for a bit less than $2 a cup, depending on the market, for instance. ‘We've allowed other people to define us,’ he said.”

“We've become the poster child for excess. ... We are going to dispel this myth about a $4 cup of coffee,” Schultz said, noting that the company is working overtime to be sensitive to consumers’ evolving priorities: “We're being incredibly smart. We're doing everything we can to be sensitive to the needs of our customers. We can no longer sit back and ignore the pressure that our customers are under."

KC's View:
It’s funny…and I know I’m probably nitpicking here…but he lost me with the “we’re being incredibly smart” line. That just doesn’t strike me as what one says when sales and profits off and the company’s share price is down 36 percent in the past year. It seems a little tone-deaf.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. To be fair, Starbucks’ stock price is up 21 percent in 2009. But I keep thinking that Starbucks is responding tactically when it needs to be thinking strategically.