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Originally published August 21, 2009 at 12:22 AM | Page modified August 21, 2009 at 12:03 PM

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Starbucks changes drink prices

Starbucks began changing drink prices in some markets Thursday in a readjustment that soon will roll out nationwide. A spot check of Seattle stores showed no immediate changes in this area.

Seattle Times business reporter

Starbucks began changing drink prices in some markets Thursday in a readjustment that will roll out nationwide over the next few months.

A spot check of Seattle stores showed no immediate changes in this area.

Prices on popular, simple drinks such as 12-ounce lattes and 12-ounce brewed coffees will fall 5 to 10 cents, said Starbucks spokeswoman Valerie O'Neil.

Prices on some larger and more complicated beverages — for example, Frappuccinos and macchiatos — will increase by up to 30 cents, she said, although most price increases will be in the 10- to 15-cent range.

The increases are Starbucks' third since 2004. The last time it raised prices, in July 2007, traffic into its U.S. stores dropped.

At the time, Starbucks blamed rising gasoline prices, the battered housing market and other economic factors for keeping customers away. Its U.S. sales still rose that quarter (ended Sept. 30) by 19 percent, partly because of the 9-cent price increase on coffee drinks.

"Customers are feeling the impact of the economic slowdown," then-CEO Jim Donald told analysts on conference call.

U.S. traffic continued to slide and has subsequently fallen at international stores, too. The company's same-store sales for its most recent quarter ended June 28 were down 6 percent in the U.S. and 2 percent internationally.

O'Neil said the changes — which executives said in April were coming — reflect geographic and cost considerations but that there was "not one specific trigger."

She said that in some cases, Starbucks' coffee-drink prices will remain below competitors'.

"There's a misperception out there that Starbucks is more expensive than others, when in reality we are in some cases below our competitors' prices," she said.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com

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