Margins grow despite dip in WH Smith sales

 
Kasmira Jefford
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WH SMITH hailed a pick-up in trading across its travel outlets over Christmas and said it was confident of making further progress this year, despite a continued decline in likefor-like sales.

In what has become a long-running theme, the retailer said like-for-like sales fell four per cent in the 20 weeks to 18 January but that gross margin improved and it delivered “another good profit performance”.

Chief executive Stephen Clarke, who replaced Kate Swann last year, has pledged to continue with the cost-cutting strategy laid out by his predecessor and step up expansion overseas to offset declining footfall at home.

Like-for-like sales at WH Smith’s travel outlets fell one per cent but this was a slight improvement on the two per cent decline reported in the previous 10 weeks and better than analysts expected.

Sales at WH Smith’s high street stores open more than a year were down by six per cent, although the company said this was in-line with what it had forecast.

“Looking ahead, we continue to plan cautiously and manage the business tightly while investing in new opportunities for future growth," said Clarke.

He added: “We are confident in making further progress in the year.”

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