Surge in spoof humour book sales boosts WH Smith on the high street - but travel's still the stationer's lifeblood

Rebecca Smith
WH Smith Announces Huge Losses
WH Smith is flying on the success of spoof humour books (Source: Getty)
ell, it couldn't rely on adult colouring books forever, could it?

The fad around adult colouring books might be slowing, but WH Smith has instead seen a surge in sales of spoof humour books, such as Five on Brexit Island and Five Give Up the Booze, spoofing Enid Blyton's The Famous Five. There's also the Ladybirds for Grown-Ups series, such as How it Works: The Husband.

Spoof humour books are proving popular
Spoof humour books are proving popular at WH Smith

Still, it's the stationer's presence in airports and stations that's proving strongest and what has edged up profit forecast for the year. Shares were up 7.03 per cent in early trading to 1,584.00p.

The figures

In its trading update for the 21 weeks up to 21 January, the stationer announced like-for-like travel sales rose five per cent and total sales up 10 per cent.

Like-for-like sales from high street revenue were down though, by three per cent and total sales down four per cent. WH Smith said this was in line with expectations thanks to spoof humour books and seasonal stationery.

Why it's interesting

Those train stations and airports are holding strong as the lifeblood of WH Smith, with like-for-like sales on the up again, thanks to a growth in passenger numbers.

The stationer also opened 32 Post Offices in the period, taking its total to 145 within the High Street stores. It said the plan remains to open up to 23 more in the balance of the year.

It has announced the agreement of a new five-year revolving credit working capital facility of £140m with BNP Paribas, HSBC, Barclays and Santander Global.

What the company said

Stephen Clarke, group chief executive, said: "As a result of the performance in travel we expect group profit growth for the year to be slightly ahead of plan.

"While there is some uncertainty in the broader economic environment, we remain confident that the group is well positioned for the year ahead as we continue to focus on profitable growth, cash generation and investing in new opportunities."

In short

Travel's flying for WH Smith - and what's bumped up its profit forecast, but spoof humour books have plugged a high street gap nicely. Shares were up seven per cent in early trading.

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