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Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte drives foot traffic: Data VP of Marketing Ethan Chernofsky joins Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman to discuss how Starbucks' pumpkin spice latte is helping drive foot traffic to the coffee chain.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: I want to highlight what had a lot of people outraged, especially those in the coffee community here with Starbucks launching its Pumpkin Spice Latte sooner than it's ever done in history. Here coming back August 25, and that is not a mistake.

Here to discuss more on why Starbucks is pushing that up to try and salvage these in-between lulls in high shopping seasons. With us is Ethan Chernofsky, VP of marketing. Joins us now. And, Ethan, I mean, this is something that actually matters.

People maybe make jokes about it, but Pumpkin Spice Latte gets people back in stores. Talk to me about what you're seeing play out.

ETHAN CHERNOFSKY: Sure. So I think it's a really important move. And it's an important move for Starbucks, and it's probably an important move for the wider retail landscape. So what we saw was Starbucks visits down around 20% each week in the last-- you know, those early weeks of August, year over year.

And that was the best they had been doing since the start of the pandemic. But when they launched the Pumpkin Spice Latte, that Saturday and Sunday that followed were down 7% and 6% year over year. So those are massive increases in terms of the levels of visits they were seeing.

And it's incredible because it's essentially Starbucks saying, our best time of year is the fall and winter, so let's bring the fall a few weeks early.

ZACK GUZMAN: I mean, it's kind of shocking because it's chopping those losses in half is what it's doing. More than half when you're talking about foot traffic there. So, again, it just goes to show the importance of this freakin' Pumpkin Spice Latte, which-- it has people crazy.

But, I mean, when you do factor those numbers in and you kind of extrapolate out, obviously, a lot of these Starbucks aren't just standalone restaurants or locations. I mean, what other kind of boosts might that bring to the pain in the retail space right now?

ETHAN CHERNOFSKY: So I think it means people are getting out of the house, and they're gonna go somewhere to do something. And Starbucks is sitting in a shopping center with other retailers, which increases the likelihood of that cross-shopping.

But even more, I think it gives a model to lots of other retailers ahead of an incredibly uncertain holiday season. We don't know what Black Friday is gonna bring. We don't know what this season is gonna look like. Home Depot just announced two months of Black Friday.

And so everything that other retailers can do to create that level of urgency that drives that visit is going to be critical in helping a lot of these retailers survive the next six months or so.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, especially when we talk about a lot of these retailers shifting back-- you know, normally it would be the beginning of Black Friday kind of on Thanksgiving day. It had crept closer, and more workers were having to deal with that.

But now we've seen retailers shift back and say, no, we're not gonna do that anymore. So, I mean, it does become even more important when you think about these cyclical drivers.

And whether or not Black Friday might be dead compared to Cyber Monday anyways, if you think about the trends that we've already seen here play out in 2020.

But maybe-- I guess, just to get back to Starbucks, if fall and winter months are so important to them and you see them shifting it up, I mean, what does that say about what other strategies you might continue to see here for Starbucks as they continue to tweak, I guess, their calendar year?

ETHAN CHERNOFSKY: Well, I think what makes Starbucks so special is the fact that they look to combat seasonality in a way that very few other brands do. So if you think back in 2019, Tie-Dye Frappuccinos were launched in, you know, June, July.

And it wasn't because they thought this is the greatest idea they ever had. It's because here's a gimmick that can drive visits in a time that's normally a weaker period for that brand.

And that's the type of strategic thinking, agility, and willingness to test out concepts that has made Starbucks so strong for so long. And it's positioning the brand incredibly well for the period to come.