From mid-November through December 4, Starbucks’ market value plummeted by nearly $11 billion. The company’s stock dropped 8.96% between November 16 and December 4, a historic fall that’s its longest losing streak since its initial public offering over thirty years ago.
Financial analysts cite changing consumer attitudes towards the famous coffee chain that significantly impact sales as the main factor in the stock’s drop. But why are attitudes changing towards a company that has dominated the retail coffee industry?
Boycotts in Solidarity With Union
In 2021, baristas working at stores in Buffalo, New York, formed the first union of Starbucks employees and joined the Workers United union, a group affiliated with the major Service Employees International Union. Since then, more and more stores in the global chain have voted to unionize to negotiate for better working conditions and pay.
But those negotiation attempts have been met with silence or outright hostility from the corporation. Most recently, a judge ruled that Starbucks illegally engaged in union-busting activity by offering non-union workers benefits they withheld from union workers.
These anti-labor actions from the company led workers to call on consumers’ empathy for the baristas who serve them and boycott the company until it meaningfully negotiates. As of now, meaningful negotiation has not begun, and many former Starbucks drinkers are foregoing their coffee or buying at independent local coffee shops.
Boycotts in Solidarity With LGBTQIA+ Community
Calls for boycotts increased over the summer when Starbucks leadership reportedly told workers at several locations that they could not display Pride flags and other celebratory decorations in June. Baristas, many of whom are members of the LGBTQIA+ community themselves, were surprised and hurt by the directive that contrasted with previous years of Pride celebrations at stores across the country. Again, consumers responded by further distancing themselves from Starbucks.
Boycotts in Solidarity With Palestine
New calls for boycotting Starbucks and several other major corporations have erupted during the increased violence in Palestine as Israeli forces have responded to an October 7 Hamas attack with unprecedented bombings that have killed more than 13,000 civilians and counting.
The calls for boycotting Starbucks over the conflict began when the company filed a lawsuit against Starbucks Workers United for an X post that pledged “Solidarity with Palestine.” While the post was deleted, the union filed a countersuit, and the issue is currently in litigation. The swift and legal corporate response to a call for solidarity with a population UN special rapporteur Francesca Albanese said is at “risk of genocide” has pushed even more coffee lovers to avoid the chain.
Inflation and Giving Up Unnecessary Expenses
Adding to the many boycotts led by union and social justice activists, there’s the simple matter of rampant inflation impacting spending in the United States. Starbucks has frequently been immune to inflation affecting sales. Last year, sales increased even after a price hike for the company’s beloved beverages. But as the market starts to wear on consumers, and the holidays cut into pockets, there’s little doubt that simple economics are one of many factors in Starbucks’ declining sales.