WH Smith swings back to profit as retailer eyes global expansion
WH Smith is back in the black after footfall to airports and railway stations returned this year, following the opening up of society post-Covid.
The high street staple posted group profit before tax of £63m for the year to the end of August, compared to a loss of £116m it booked the year previously.
WH Smith posted its highest ever annual revenue since its creation in 2006, raking in total sales of £1.4bn, up 58 per cent on the year before.
A return of commuters and holidaymakers to transport destinations since the easing of lockdown curbs had benefited the group’s travel segment.
Total sales at these shops were sitting at 148 per cent of 2019 levels, over the 10 week period to 5 November, the London-listed retailer said.
However, WH Smith admitted that sales at its high street stores had yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. This division posted like-for-like revenue at 83 per cent of 2019 levels.
Earnings at greetings card website Funkypigeon.com were dented by a cyber incident in April, as previously anticipated. The card seller posted total sales of £35m, subdued in comparison to the £54m posted in 2021, while headline EBITDA sat at £8m, down on £14m.
It is rolling out a pipeline of some 150 new stores across 16 countries, including in airports such as Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Brussels, Oslo and Melbourne.
Carl Cowling, group chief executive, said the brand saw “significant scope to grow the brand globally,” especially in North America.
Its North American estate was swelling “at pace”, Cowling said on Thursday, pointing to a “very strong” pipeline of new store openings in the works.
WH Smith’s business across the pond was set to generate higher profits than its UK high street business, in the current financial year.
Shares in the retailer lifted four per cent in early trading on Thursday morning.
Although there was “economic uncertainty”, global travel momentum was continuing to grow, Cowling said, signifying “a year of significant progress in 2023.”