Whitbread saw like-for-like sales at its Costa coffee shop chain increase by 4.7% in the 13 weeks to 31 May, compared to the same period last year. Total sales grew by 18.4%.Alan Parker, Whitbread’s chief executive, said: “Costa has benefiting from its rapid expansion programme and continued like-for-like sales growth. Fifty five additional stores have been opened in this quarter including 41 in the UK.”In a preliminary statement for the financial year to 1 March, Whitbread said that Costa achieved total sales of £175.1m, up 22.4%.Growth was driven by openings in new markets such as Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and China.Total like-for-like sales in UK stores were up 6.6% in 2006-7 thanks to a store refurbishment programme and the introduction of more premium food and coffee products. Costa opened 199 stores in the last financial year and has a target of 2,000 stores by 2010/11.
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The rumblings have once again started over the availability and access to the most precious commodity in Jamaican sports: grandstand tickets for the final day of Boys and Girls’ Championships. The discourse has now reached ridiculous proportions with the recent proposal by the past student bodies of top high schools – Calabar, Kingston College, and Jamaica College – launching a formal lobby for a bigger portion of the premium, final-day grandstand tickets to be made available to them. This, to my mind, is a most obnoxious, contentious, and unprincipled proposal. Equity and fairness have been thrown into the garbage, as KC, Calabar, and JC typically seek to feather their own selfish nests. The so-called ‘three the hard way’ are trying to make the case that they spend a combined total of over $40 million in preparing their teams for the marquee event, which, invariably, is won by one of the big three, thus their claim of entitlement for preferential treatment. The arrogance went up a notch with the sly reminder by the ‘cartel’ that Champs would not be the same without Calabar, KC, and JC – with no regard for the fundamental fact that Champs is still a national amateur high-school event. The situation is what it is as it relates to the overwhelming demand for grandstand final-day Champs tickets, and that situation will not change anytime soon. The capacity of the grandstand is less than 5,000, with approximately half of those seats allocated to sponsors, special guests, media, etc. So, in reality, there will be tens of thousands of people chasing less than 3,000 premier grandstand Super Saturday tickets. Certainly, allocating more of those limited tickets to ‘select schools’ cannot be the way to go for the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA). Outside of allowing the overwhelming demand to dictate the price of the grandstand tickets, which would probably push the price up to an exorbitant level, ISSA must remain cognisant of the fact that Champs remains a mere high-school event. Under the less-than-perfect circumstances, the limited tickets should continue to be allocated on a first-come first-serve basis. That is simply the fairest method of allocation. WHAT NEXT? Following the principle of the ‘three the hard way’ proposal to its logical conclusion, it would not be long before the suggestion comes that only past or current students of the top contenders and the big spenders and recent Champs, winners KC, Calabar, and JC will be welcome inside the grandstand and eventually inside the entire stadium. I suspect that the erudite and principled leadership of ISSA will pay very scant regard to the proposal of what must now be more appropriately known as ‘three the snobbish and arrogant way’. The sending of the right messages of fairness, justice, equality, and transparency must be of utmost importance as it relates to a high-school event. The principle must remain where no students or past students of any particular school should be more entitled to a seat in the grandstand on the final day of Champs than the students or past students of any other school. I sincerely hope that after burning in the fields for so long in order to build Boys and Girls’ Champs into an international spectacle of the highest reputation, that on this particular issue of principle, ISSA will neither fall nor yield.