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The Wall Street Journal is reporting on an interview with Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, heir to the Howard Schultz legacy, in which he says that he is “scaling back” some of his predecessor’s initiatives - such as the opening of 1,000 Starbucks Reserve cafes and as many as 30 giant Roastery units - and focusing more on the company’s core coffee shop business.

Johnson describes Schultz’s ambitious plans to focus on upscale stores and products as aspirational, and says they will have to prove themselves before the company puts significant investment against their growth. An he even is slowing the growth of Starbucks’ traditional store fleet, preferring to improve customer service, develop new drinks, and apply greater rigor to the development and implementation of the company’s priorities.

One phrase Johnson has been heard to use around Starbucks’ Seattle headquarters: “I’m not Howard, I’m Kevin.” And he tells the Journal that “he is trying to bring more financial discipline to the business and return more cash to shareholders,” at a time when the company “is under pressure to expand sales in an increasingly crowded coffee market,” and dealing with diminished traffic.
KC's View:
I’ve long been critical in this space of Starbucks’ obsession with higher end projects, mostly because I worried that the strategy would be unsustainable when the economy falters; I suspect that Johnson may in part be backing off because this seem a little uncertain now.

But I also think that it is important not to totally dismiss the importance of magic. For all his faults, Schultz was a magician, a showman, a larger than life leader … and when you lose that, a culture can suffer a bit. It is really hard following a legend, and I don’t envy Johnson’s role at the moment.