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Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson says the company will look to boost its digital capabilities to better serve customers in the new era of physical distancing. (GeekWire File Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Starbucks, which closed stores across the US and Canada amid the COVID-19 outbreak, says it plans to start reopening in early May and expects to have 90% of company-operated US stores back in business by early June “with enhanced safety protocols and modified schedules.”

“This monitor and adapt phase in the US is the inflection point for reopening stores and begins a recovery process that requires ongoing monitoring, community by community, to rapidly adapt and drive the recovery,” said Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson on the company’s earnings conference call.

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His comments came as COVID-19’s impact on the Seattle-based coffee giant became more clear. Starbucks?reported a 10% decline in same-store sales globally for the March quarter. It was the first decline in that key metric in 11 years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Johnson vowed that Starbucks will strengthen its competitive advantage “through continued improvements in our digital capabilities and innovative store formats.” The company, for example, was among the first to let customers order ahead through a smartphone to pick up an order in the store.

“We are well-positioned to leverage our digital assets and new operating formats like contactless pickup, and curbside, to expand service to customer customers,” said Johnson, a former Microsoft Windows president and Juniper Networks CEO. “The focus on the customer experience, beverage innovation, and digital differentiates Starbucks and will enable us to regain the momentum we had prior to COVID-19.”

Overall revenues were down 5% to $6 billion for the quarter, largely due to the impact of COVID-19. Profits fell more than 50% to $328 million for the quarter, and the company’s shares are down slightly in after-hours trading.

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