Happy Holidays: Starbucks Has Jacked Up Prices Again

Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 21.

Updated from 9:23 a.m. with comments from Starbucks.

Starbucks (SBUX) may have just given its legion of caffeine addicts a nice early holiday gift -- another price increase.

It's not too hard to figure out why Starbucks may have lifted prices again. For starters, sales growth has slowed in the U.S., so a price increase would go a long way to pumping up sales.

According to receipts for a venti red eye coffee with one shot of expresso from several New York City Starbucks locations starting on Nov. 17, we paid $5.17, a 6.8% increase from the week prior. As late as Nov. 14, the same drink cost $4.84. "Prices on all the coffee, frappuccinos, everything went up after Election Day," said a barista TheStreet spoke with about the higher price for our morning java.

A Starbucks spokeswoman confirmed to TheStreet a price increase on select cold beverages such as cold brew and certain bakery items of 10 cents to 30 cents went into effect at most stores on Nov. 10, adding that Starbucks expects the average customer ticket to increase by about 0.5% as a result of its beverage adjustments.

Approximately 90% of the beverages have not changed price, for example hot brewed coffee, espresso, tea or prepared items. Cold brew coffee had been the same price since it was introduced two years ago, the spokeswoman said.

Starbucks already hiked drink prices at many of its U.S. stores by as much as 30 cents in July, citing higher coffee costs and rising operating expenses. Customers were forced to pay 10 cents to 20 cents more for certain sizes of brewed coffee, and 10 cents to 30 cents more on espresso beverages and tea lattes. Prior to what looks to be a post-Election Day price increase, Starbucks has typically raised prices on select beverages between 5 cents and 20 cents a year.

Starbucks U.S. same-store sales in the fiscal fourth quarter ended Oct. 2 rose 4%, matching a disappointing 4% growth rate in the third quarter.

Starbucks' overall same-store sales for the fourth quarter gained 4% for the second straight three-month period and came in below Wall Street estimates for a 4.8% increase. Prior to the third quarter, Starbucks had notched an impressive 25-quarter stretch of 5% same-store sales growth or greater.

Meanwhile, effective Oct. 3, all Starbucks employees in U.S. company-operated stores received an increase in base pay of 5% or greater. The company has over 150,000 employees at some 7,670 company-operated locations in the U.S. 

Starbucks is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells SBUX? Learn more now.

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