Starbucks CEO resigning, shifting focus to more upscale outlets

Howard Schultz, who will pass the baton to COO Kevin Johnson, plans to develop its premium-coffee stores. Despite an upbeat call to investors, shares tumbled.

Starbucks is shaking things up—but not by changing the ingredients in its pumpkin spice latte.

On Thursday, the company’s chief executive, Howard Schultz, announced that he will step down on April 3. Starbucks’ chief operating officer, Kevin Johnson, will take over.

Schultz will stay on as executive chairman and “will shift his focus to innovation, design and development of Starbucks Reserve® Roasteries around the world,” the company said in a statement.

In a call with investors and reporters, Schultz further explained his vision for the company’s high-end coffee stores:

Since its opening two years ago, our Seattle Roastery has become widely recognized as the world’s most immersive, coffee-forward retail experience. Executives from premier global retailers like Apple, Nike and Zara have shared with me their view that the Roastery delivers the best retail experience – in or out of coffee – that they have ever encountered. Our Roastery is attracting customers and visitors to Seattle alike, and casting a bright halo across the entire Starbucks global brand and ecosystem.

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