Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Starbucks gets fi(RED) up in the Big Easy


Starbucks gathered its top managers this week in New Orleans for a morale-building leadership soiree and for its final act, its famous chief executive Howard Schultz yielded the stage to rock star Bono.

The U2 singer and philanthropist, who co-founded the (Red) project that develops co-branded products with companies like Apple and Gap, was on scene to help Starbucks announce its own (Red) product line launching on Nov. 27. A portion of the proceeds from Starbucks’ (Red) product sales will go to the Global Fund to invest in AIDS programs in Africa, a key coffee-growing region for Starbucks.

“This coffee will be beautiful because it’s going to chase away the ugliness of this tiny little virus, HIV,” Bono told the crowd of 10,000 store and district managers as colored spotlights swept over the crowd gathered for the event’s last session at the New Orleans Arena.

Starbucks held the conference as it grapples with its own turn of fortunes. (You have probably read about company layoffs and the 600 U.S. stores being closed this year as Starbucks’ domestic customers have cut the frequency of their pricey latte purchases to accommodate higher fuel and food costs.)