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WHSmith halts high street growth

WHSmith CEO, Carl Cowling, has revealed the retailer will not be opening any more high street stores in the UK, instead, focusing on airport and train station stores.

The omnichannel retailer also unveiled plans to expand across Europe and the US.

“We’ve got a very healthy high street business in the UK. But we’ve got no ambitions to grow that,” Cowling told the BBC.

According to Cowling, opening more stores “would just be a duplication” of its 550 high-street stores in the UK.

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WHSmith is ranked as a Top350 retailer in RXUK’s Top500 report.

He said the company has plans to spend £120 million over the next year to open shops in the US and across Europe: “We’ve got a pipeline of 60 stores to open and we’re constantly winning tenders in airports.”

In its latest results, the company reported a rise in revenues for its UK travel arm.

In the 13 weeks that ended 27 May 2023, revenues increased 24% on last year, as air sales were up 26%, and 33% in hospitals and rail 10% despite the ongoing impact of industrial action, respectively.

At the time, the company said: “Trading is strong across all three travel divisions, and we are very well positioned to capitalise on the substantial growth drivers across our markets. Since our announcement on the 20 April, our expectations for the full financial year have modestly improved”

WHSmith also revealed, despite not planning to open more high street stores, it will continue to invest in them, for example, Toys R Us, which is planning its UK relaunch.

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