Although there is an increasing cacophony of a second recessionary dip, latest results from the non-essential leisure and retail markets suggests UK consumers are spending. Chocolate maker and retailer Thorntons reported increased sales and Whitbread also reported increased like-for-like sales. Both companies tempered excitement with warnings though.

Thorntons executive chairman John von Spreckelsen reported sales growth for the chocolate maker which also has its own retail chain for the 52 weeks ending 26 June 2010, but revenues were flat at £214.6 million, and almost identical figure to last year. Profit before tax decreased by 2.4 per cent.

"I am pleased to report that in spite of the difficult trading environment, sales of Thorntons branded products grew by 4.7 per cent on last year. We have seen strong sales growth in both the Commercial and Thorntons Direct channels and the number of franchises increased by 25 during the year,” von Spreckelsen said. But the chairman warned: "At the same time we have also introduced a number of sustainable cost saving initiatives including savings through capital investment in manufacturing, procurement activity and headcount reductions.”

Earlier this month Thorntons signed a six-year deal with HP to supply end-to-end management of its IT, networking and applications. HP will host applications and provide support for the EPOS system in Thorntons stores.

Whitbread, which operates the Costa Coffee chain and Premier Inn hotel network reported increased like-for-like sales for the first six months of 2010. The company said its Costa Coffee loyalty scheme had increased sales by eight per cent and is now looking to expand the chain into developing markets like China and Russia.

Andrew Brothers (pictured), CIO at Whitbread told CIO UK recently that the pressure on the leisure company is the high levels of competition it faces both in the high street coffee chain market and budget hotels. Therefore Brothers and his IT team has to be very focussed on improving the customer experience and reducing costs for the company. Brothers told CIO that this means he is very closely involved with the senior management.

Brothers said: “Our attitude to technology is that you’ve got to be in it to win it, but it’s not about technology at any cost. We’re asking things like ‘How can we use mobile and ­social networking?’”.

Read the CIO UK interview with Andrew Brothers, CIO at Whitbread