Latest News / WH Smith sees travel stores trump high street shops for the first time

WH Smith sees travel stores trump high street shops for the first time

WH Smith has revealed that sales from its shops in train stations and airports have overtaken high street stores for the first time as it posted a 7% hike in annual profits.

The retailer said its burgeoning travel arm is now the largest part of the group by both sales and profit, notching up a 10% surge in annual earnings to £96 million and accounting for nearly two-thirds of group trading profits.

This helped offset ongoing pressure on the high street chain, which saw trading profits remain flat at £62 million and like-for-like sales fall 4% in the year to August 31, despite a boost from spoof humour books such as Bruno Vincent's Enid Blyton for grown-ups title, Five On Brexit Island.

Chief executive Stephen Clarke hailed a "good performance" across the group as overall pre-tax profits rose to £140 million from £131 million.

He said: "The travel business continues to perform well with strong revenue growth, up 9% in the year.

"For the first time, revenue in travel has overtaken high street, and travel is now the largest part of the group in both revenue and profit."

He added the “economic environment remains uncertain”, but said WH Smith is well-placed for the year ahead.

Shares fell 2% despite WH Smith announcing a 10% rise in its final shareholder dividend payout to 48.2p.

WH Smith has 582 travel stores across the UK, as well as a growing overseas footprint, with 233 international shops.

It said the overseas stores contributed £9 million of the £96 million reported for the travel business.

The high street arm continued to benefit from tight cost control to help offset flagging sales, although WH Smith cheered spoof humour books as a “key driver” of revenues, which helped counter a sharp drop in sales of so-called colour therapy titles.

WH Smith has 611 high street stores, having closed three over the financial year.

It plans to continue focusing on growth in its fast-growing travel business, with 15 UK units opened in the past financial year.

PA Wire