WH Smith is investing in the rebound of the UK travel market after inking a deal to move its US brand InMotion into the airport and train station shops previously occupied by Dixons Travel.
The books and stationery seller said it bought 18 stores, including 17 Dixons Travel stores, at sites including major UK airports London Heathrow, London Stansted, Manchester, London Luton, Birmingham and East Midlands, which will deliver sales of around £60m a year.
In April, Dixons Carphone confirmed plans to close its 35-strong airport store business Dixons Travel after it was hammered by the pandemic and the end of tax-free tourist shopping.
WH Smith plans to take on around 200 of the 400 Dixons Travel staff who were affected by the closures.
The travel retail sector was one of WH Smith’s growth areas before the pandemic decimated passenger numbers, but the deal shows the FTSE-listed company has faith in a rebound.
InMotion was bought by WH Smith in 2018 when it was the largest airport-based digital accessories retailer in North America.
The book retailer-turned convenience store also updated the market on general trading this morning and said revenues on the high street had still not recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
High street trading at 86 per cent of 2019 levels in the 18 weeks to 3 July, but this is up from 84 per cent in the second quarter.
Its hard-hit travel chain continues to be impacted by global restrictions, with UK sales at 32 per cent of 2019 levels and global sales at 48 per cent of 2019 levels.
Total group revenues stood at 62 per cent of 2019 levels in the 18 weeks to 3 July.
But it said it was “encouraged” by the improving trends and that it expects a “small improvement” on its full-year expectations thanks to a better-than-forecast performance across North America.
As at the end of June, WH SMith had cash of £95m and it said its revolving credit facility of £250m remains undrawn.
Shares were down 0.6 per cent this morning to 1,639p.