Travel strength offsets weak high street sales at WH Smith

by | Sep 6, 2023

(Sharecast News) – Stationery and books retailer WH Smith said its full-year figures will be in line with expectations as strong trading in at its airport and train station locations offset a weak performance on the high street.
The company, which operates over 1,700 stores worldwide of which 523 are on the UK high street (at last count in February 2023), said group revenues for the year ended 31 August were up 28% year-on-year, rising 18% on a like-for-like basis.

Travel sales, which last year accounted for two-thirds of group revenue, were up 42% (+27% LFL), though first-half growth of 75% was tempered by a lesser 23% rise in the second half.

The company pointed out that the previous financial year was impacted by the Omicron variant, which had hit travel activity in the first half but led to a strong rebound in the second.

UK travel saw 36% growth, helped by a strong peak holiday season for air passenger numbers, while North America travel sales rose 31%. Rest of World travel sales, however, surged 98%, helped by 30 additional stores during the period.

WH Smith’s high street business experienced a full-year sales decline of 1% (+1% LFL) but was said to have “performed well and in line with expectations”.

The company said its strategy for the high street division remains unchanged “as we continue to focus on cost efficiencies and the return on space”.

Looking ahead, WH Smiths expects to open 40 new stores in North America in the current financial year, as well as 25 in Rest of World and 15 in the UK Travel business.

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