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WH Smith turnaround continues: strategic plan sees High Street and travel terminus growth

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WH Smith continues its turnaround from one of the most ridiculed stores to one that shows just how technology and strategic thinking can reshape a high street focussed business.

Prior to entering its close period ahead of reporting its preliminary results for the 12 months ending 31 August 2019 on 17 October 2019, the retailers has said that its High Street business continues to perform in line with expectations.

The company says: “Consistent with our profit focused strategy, cost savings and margin improvements have been delivered in line with plan. We continue to focus on our successful stationery business, developing new ranges and allocating additional space to the category in our High Street stores. In addition, we now have 202 Post Offices open in our High Street stores.”

WH Smith PLC expects the outcome for the year to 31 August 2019 to be in line with expectations.

WH Smith’s Travel business also continues to perform strongly, with good sales across all channels, says the company.

“Our hospital channel is now the second largest channel in our UK Travel business. Gross margin is in line with plan and our new store opening programme is on track both in the UK and internationally,” says a statement.

The company continues: “Our International business – including InMotion – continues to grow strongly and we have 428 stores open outside the UK. We now have three InMotion stores outside North America: in Perth, Australia; Alicante, Spain; and Leeds Bradford in the UK. We see good scope to grow InMotion both in the US and internationally. In addition, we see further opportunities to grow our news, books and convenience format in the international travel retail market, where we have a small market share. “

Commenting on the results, Paul Kirkland, Retail & Hospitality Director, Fujitsu UK, says: “WH Smith’s strong performance is a positive sign for brick-and-mortar stores, following a turbulent period for retail. While its high street presence continues to do well, the most notable result is the success of its stores located at travel destinations. WH Smith has done well in tailoring its product range to fit the need of customers who will shop at their stores in train stations, airports and hospitals.”

Kirkland continues: “This shows the importance for retailers to be strategic when reaching their customers on the high street. It’s no use aimlessly planting stores in areas where there is simply no demand for their products. Retailers must put their stores where customers need them most and, in each store, with the layout and selection of products tailored towards the needs and requirements for shoppers in these areas.

Kirkland concludes: “Technology can be the catalyst for retailers who look to serve their customers in this way. If individual stores and the people working within the store can spend more time engaging with their customers, they can understand the products and services required within their store and use technology to report, serve and inspire their customers. By turning their shops ‘inside-out’, stores can be equally as successful as WH Smith in a difficult period for retail.”

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