WHSmith says it’s trading well online although lower visitor numbers mean that its stores are still trading well below pre-pandemic 2019 levels.
The stationery-to-books retailer today said in a trading update that group revenues in the 18 weeks to July 3 were at 62% of its sales in the same period in pre-pandemic 2019. That reflects the lower number of people in its travel shops – where sales were at 48% of 2019 levels – and its high street shops (86%). However, its websites – which include whsmith.co.uk and funkypigeon.com are still seeing a “good performance”.
WHSmith is to open 18 InMotion technology and accessories stores in UK airports from London Heathrow to Luton, Birmingham and the East Midlands. InMotion is part of WHSmith’s US business, with 117 shops in 43 airports in that country. The move comes as sales in its travel business are recovering gradually as restrictions ease. During the 18-week period, travel sales were 32% of those made in the same period in 2019 – with only 10% of 2019 sales achieved in airports, 80% in hospitals and 34% in railway stations. However, in the last week of the period – to July 3 – travel revenues had recovered to 38% of 2019 sales, and the retailer says it will be “well positioned as travel markets recover and passenger number increase”.
WHSmith now expects that the new UK InMotion stores will deliver sales of around £60m a year, on £15m in capital expenditure and working capital investment – in the year to August 31 2022.
The retailer says it is seeing stronger recovery in its North American travel business, where sales are at 88% of 2019 levels, while its European travel business is seeing “a gradual improvement as passenger numbers begin to recover”. Elsewhere, international passenger numbers are, like its UK air business, still well down on 2019.
WHSmith is a Top250 retailer in RXUK Top500 research.