SEATTLE (AP)--An alleged war on Christmas by Starbucks apparently didn't dampen the coffee chain's holiday sales, but the company's outlook going forward fell short of Wall Street expectations.
The Seattle-based company says sales rose 9 percent in its flagship U.S. market and 8 percent globally during the final three months of the year. The increase at home and abroad was the result of a mix of higher customer traffic and increased spending.
Over the holidays, the company said $1.9 billion was loaded onto Starbucks gift cards. It said one in six American adults received a Starbucks gift card over the holidays, up from one in seven a year ago, and one in eight two years ago.
The strong results came despite an online backlash from some corners when Starbucks unveiled its minimalist red cups bearing only its logo for the holidays. That was a change from past years, when the company's holiday cups were decorated with reindeer, snowflakes and Christmas ornaments.
Starbucks has been pushing up sales by rolling out pricier drinks like the "Flat White" and more food options. It said sales of breakfast sandwiches were up 40 percent during the quarter from a year ago.
The company apparently wasn't affected by the warm weather, which hurt retailers that sell items such as winter coats and boats. Starbucks noted that its sells both cold and hot drinks.
For the quarter, the company earned $687.6 million, or 46 cents per share. That was a penny more than Wall Street expected.
Total revenue was $5.37 billion, short of the $5.38 billion analysts had forecast, according to Zacks Investment Research.
For the current quarter ending in April, Starbucks expects its per-share earnings to range from 38 cents to 39 cents. That's below the average analyst estimate of 40 cents per share, according to FactSet. The company expects full-year earnings in the range of $1.87 to $1.89 per share, compared with the FactSet estimate of $1.89 per share.