WH Smith has reviewed its high street presence as sales and profits fell in that division over the course of its last financial year, closing six stores as a result.
The review, said the retailer, a Top100 business in IRUK Top500 research, in full-year results out this week, was intended to make sure the business remained fit for purpose now and in the future.
“The results of this review confirmed our successful strategy of actively managing our space to optimise our core categories, gross margin growth and good cost control,” it said in its full-year statement.
“We have created a plan that enables us to better structure the business for the future: by focusing on the core business; winding down our non core initiatives of Cardmarket and WHSmith Local; restructuring some operational activities; and dealing with around six loss-making stores which will now close at lease end.” The high street business now has 607 stores following the closures.
Focus on stationery
Stationery accounts for about half of WH Smith’s high-street sales, and the retailer has also developed its offer online through acquisitions. Sales and profits at its online personalised greeting card business funkypigeon.com grew over the year. “We saw increased traffic volumes with our focused marketing investment and conversion has continued to be strong as we have developed the website and app,” the retailer said in its full-year figures today.
WH Smith bought cultpens.com in the first half of the year and since then, it said, this has performed well. “This business,” said WH Smith in its results statement, “complements our existing stationery ranges in both our high street stores and online at whsmith.co.uk as well as enhancing our customer offer.”
WH Smith’s core website, whsmith.co.uk, saw the mix of stationery sales on the website increase by about 10% during the year.
The update came as WH Smith reported full-year sales of £1.3bn in the year to August 2018, 2% up on the previous year. But while revenue in travel stores – in airports and railways stations – was up by 8%, sales in high street stores were down by 3%. Group pre-tax profits of £134m were 4% down on last time, with travel trading profit 7% up at £103m, and high street trading profit down by 3% at £60m.
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