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WH Smith reports rise in high street sales thanks to ‘colour therapy’ craze

Retailer WH Smith said strong Christmas trading and the new craze for ''colour therapy'' helped it post its first rise in high street sales for 14 years.

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The magazines and stationery firm said like-for-like sales lifted by 2% at its high street outlets in the five weeks to January 2 compared to a year ago, the first rise this part of the business has seen since 2002.

It said sales were driven by strong festive stationery promotions and the demand for adult colouring books, a trend capturing the imagination of those looking to de-stress and spend time away from looking at mobile phones and screens.

Overall, the retailer said group same-store sales rose by 2% over the 20 weeks to January 16 against 12 months before, while like-for-like sales jumped by 5% at its top-performing stores in train stations and airports over the same period.

The group added it expected its full-year profits would be “slightly ahead of plan.” Shares jumped 8%.

Analysts at Investec upgraded the annual pre-tax profit forecast at WH Smith by 1.5% to £133.3 million after a “better-than-expected sales performance”.

WH Smith chief executive Stephen Clarke said its high street stores saw “good like-for-like sales growth over the key Christmas period, driven by the ‘colour therapy’ phenomenon, our seasonal offer and strong promotions in stationery.”

Mr Clarke added the retailer’s units at train stations and airports “continue to benefit from the impact of our growth initiatives and the improvement in passenger numbers”.

Peel Hunt analyst Jonathan Pritchard said: “The Christmas reporting season has produced yet another colourful twist with WH Smith reporting extremely pleasing numbers – indeed it is the first time in analytical living memory that we have talked about positive like-for-like on the high street for the company.”

WH Smith runs around 740 travel outlets, over 600 high street stores and around 130 international units in Europe, the Middle East, Australia, South-East Asia and India.