WH Smith is to launch a new website in coming months with a focus on an improved customer experience.
The retailer said that WHSmith.co.uk, which sells both books and stationery, had seen particularly strong sales growth in stationery during the first half of its financial year. Its new website, to be launched during the second half of the retailer’s financial year, will provide a wider range of products as well as an improved user experience.
The work is part of WH Smith’s emphasis on growing its stationery business, from which it generates half of its high street sales. WH Smith says the market for stationery is robust, especially around fashion and seasonal events. The retailer also claims a market leading position in slime, where it offers a one-stop shop for customers to make their own slime products.
WH Smith also operates the funkypigeon.com online personalised greetings card business, and the cultpens.com website. Both performed well over the first half of WH Smith’s financial year. Bestselling Funky Pigeon products included personalised keyring and baubles over the Christmas period.
The update came as the retailer, ranked Top150 in IRUK Top500 research, this week reported total group revenue of £695m in the six months to February 28, up by 8% compared the same time last year. Like-for-like (LFL) revenue, which strips out the effect of store – and business – openings and closures – was up by 1%.
Group chief executive Stephen Clarke said the group had delivered a strong performance in the first half of the year, with sales particularly strong in its travel business (+18%), which sells through stores at airports and in stations. This part of the business generates more than 70% of WH Smith’s operating profit. During the last half-year WH Smith bought InMotion, a digital and travel accessories retailer that trades from 115 stores in 43 US airports.
But its high street business also had a good half-year, said Clarke. “High Street delivered one of our best trading performances in recent years, despite the widely reported challenges facing the UK high street, with LFL sales down 2%,” he said. “This has been driven by good growth in seasonal stationery ranges including Christmas cards, wrap, diaries, calendars and our latest fashion and art and craft ranges.”
WH Smith is opening branches of the Post Office within its high street stores and expects to have more than 200 by the end of the current financial year in a move that it says “further cements our positions at the heart of the communities we serve.”
Image: InternetRetailing Media/Paul Skeldon