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WH Smith travel stores drive sales but high street drops 3%

Image © WH Smith

WH Smith has reported sales at its UK Travel division – the company’s largest category – rose 15% in the 20 weeks to 20 January, but high street sales fell 3%.

Travel sales were boosted by the opening of its largest UK travel store at Birmingham airport, described by the retailer as a “one-stop-shop for travel essentials”. WH Smith reported very positive feedback from the landlord and customers.

While high street sales have dropped, the retailer – which started its first newsagent in 1792 – said it was on track to cut costs by £10mn from that part of the business. It reported good stock availability and it exited Christmas with a clean stock position.

Additionally, North America sales were up 7% and the Rest of the World rose by almost a fifth.

Carl Cowling, group chief executive, WH Smith PLC, said: “I am pleased with the start to the financial year. Our Travel business is growing strongly across all our divisions and we have seen a notably strong performance in the UK, our largest division, with total revenue up 15% and like-for-like revenue up 14%.

“We continue to make excellent progress in North America, and I am particularly excited by the substantial growth opportunities that exist in this market. We are on track to open over 50 new stores in North America this financial year. In total, we are on track to open over 110 stores this financial year.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the entire team, and in particular, our store colleagues who have worked exceptionally hard serving our customers across the globe during this period.

“The Group is trading well and is in its strongest ever position as a global travel retailer. We are confident of another year of significant growth in 2024.”

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