Branch sales fall at WH Smith but travel takes off

Joseph Millis
BRITISH High Street icon WH Smith yesterday reported a fall in group and like-for-like sales in the 20 weeks to 17 January.

However, it added that it was performing in line with its expectations.

The FTSE 250-listed retailer said total group sales for the 20 weeks fell one per cent, with like-for-like sales declining two per cent.

In its travel business, total sales rose seven per cent and like-for-like sales were up two per cent on the back of an improvement in all channels, particularly in its large airport concessions.

Gross margins in the travel arm were improving due to category mix, WH Smith said.

But sales in its high street business dropped five per cent in total and five per cent on a like-for-like basis, which the company said was in line with its expectations. It said it remained on target with its plans to improve its high street gross margin.

WH Smith chief executive Stephen Clarke said: “The group delivered another good profit performance. Travel continues to benefit from the ongoing improvement in passenger numbers and the impact of our latest initiatives.”

He added: “Looking forward, we remain focused on profitable growth, cash generation and investment in new opportunities and are confident of making further progress.”

Shares closed up 0.59 per cent at 1,354p.