Starbucks eliminates 600 jobs in restructuring

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp SBUX.O said on Thursday it would eliminate 600 jobs as it refocuses its business to reignite growth.

A customer sits in a Starbucks coffee shop in New York, March 14, 2007. Coffee chain Starbucks Corp said it would cut 600 jobs and is transitioning its U.S. field organization from two divisions to four. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

The coffee seller has been battered in recent months by slower consumer spending, higher milk and labor costs and concerns that it may have saturated its domestic market.

Seattle-based Starbucks has already announced plans to expand overseas and close underperforming U.S. stores.

Chief Executive Howard Schultz, who made the announcement in an e-mail to employees, is slated to share details of the company’s strategy at a Starbucks shareholder meeting on March 19.

Shares in Starbucks, which were drifting lower prior to the announcement, were down 2.5 percent, or 45 cents, at $17.81 on the Nasdaq.

Schultz also said the company would double the number of its U.S. field organizations to four by March 24, in a bid to get closer to customers and employees -- which Starbucks refers to as partners.

Starbucks laid off 220 employees on Thursday. One-third of them worked in Seattle, spokeswoman Valerie O’Neil said.

Those employees performed a variety of duties from finance to design and marketing.

The company has also eliminated an additional 380 open positions, O’Neil said

None of those job cuts affect people working at Starbucks outlets, said O’Neil, adding that Starbucks has 170,000 employees.

McAdams Wright Ragen analyst Dan Geiman said the layoffs were expected.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise at this point,” he said.

Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Braden Reddall