Wednesday 22 January 2020 9:04 am

WH Smith in the sun as travel division drives growth

WH Smith defied the winter woes that have affected many of its fellow retailers, with revenue up seven per cent for the 20 weeks to Christmas.

The growth was largely driven by an especially strong performance by the high street stalwart’s travel business, which runs stores in airports and rail stations.

In total, the division saw 19 per cent revenue growth, largely led by the £305m acquisition of fast-growing US travel retailer Marshall in December.

Driven by the acquisition, which nearly doubled its US presence, the retailer now has 600 stores internationally and 590 in the UK.

WH Smith will continue to expand the business, with 8 further stores won in the US since October.

The firm’s high street business is still under pressure, with revenue down five per cent, but the WH Smith said that it had identified an additional £3m in cost savings for the coming year.

Carl Cowling, group chief executive, said that the strategic focus for the year would be to grow the travel business further.

He said: “Looking ahead, we are on track for the current year and as we continue to grow our share of the global travel retail market, the Group is well positioned for the years ahead.”

Commenting on the update, Ed Monk, associate director at Fidelity, said: “The travel business is now the engine room of the company and there are signs that new American acquisitions Marshall and InMotion will give the retailer a whole new gear.

“WH Smith has been on a winning streak with markets lapping up whatever news comes out of the retailer. The shares are trading at 22 times earnings, but this represents a dip from recent highs. Many will no doubt be looking for the right time to buy.”

Shares in WH Smith fell two per cent in the morning’s trading.