Whitbread boss Andy Harrison defends sales fall as 'just a blip'


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The Independent Online

Whitbread’s departing chief executive dismissed talk of a slowdown at the leisure giant, despite the rise in sales from shops and hotels open for at least a year falling to 4.3 per cent in the first quarter from 6.5 per cent the year before.

“Looking at total sales, which are up 14 per cent at Premier Inns and 17 per cent at Costa Coffee, this is continuation of the very strong momentum we saw last year,” Andy Harrison said. “Looking at quarterly blips is not where the story lies.”

He said that a 0.1 per cent fall in like-for-like sales at Premier Inns in London masked the fact that it had opened a further 800 to 900 rooms in the capital and retained 86 per cent occupancy.

“That means new hotels we are opening are selling and filling up immediately.”

Earlier this year, the leisure group said it wanted to have 85,000 Premier Inn rooms in the UK by 2020, up from 59.471 now.

The company also revealed that Mr Harrison’s successor, Alison Brittain, has negotiated her departure from Lloyds Banking Group – where she is head of its retail division – and will join Whitbread in December, a month earlier than expected.

Whitbread shares ended up 30p at 5,070p.