Costa counts cost of warm winter weather

Hospitality group Whitbread revealed yesterday that many people shunned their normal coffee in a winter that included the warmest December on record.

Whitbread chief Alison Brittain blamed the mild winter for slow growth. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

In a trading update, the company said same-floorspace sales at its Costa coffee chain edged up only 0.5 per cent in the 11 weeks to 11 February.

That compared with 3 per cent like-for-like sales growth at the chain over the 50 weeks to that date, which forms part of Whitbread’s 53-week financial year to 3 March 2016.

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Alison Brittain, group chief executive, said Costa had good total sales growth of 10.5 per cent, but added that the more modest like-for-like sales advance “reflected lower footfall on the high street and an unusually warm winter”

She said that the company planned to open another 200 net new Costa stores worldwide and install a further 950 Costa Express machines this year.

The group’s budget hotel business, Premier Inn, grew like-for-like sales 2.2 per cent in the latest trading quarter, during which occupancies stood at 71.4 per cent. Total room nights sold rose 7.4 per cent to 17 million.

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Brittain added that Whitbread planned to open about 5,500 new UK Premier Inn rooms in 2016, including 1,500 from extensions.

She said the group would continue to build towards its growth milestones “as we continue to invest in improving our customer propositions, our digital and IT capabilities and in our winning teams to ensure we maintain our market leading positions”.