WH Smith high street and travel ‘gulf’ widens

WH Smith saw its travel site sales continue to increase. Picture: Michael Gillen
WH Smith saw its travel site sales continue to increase. Picture: Michael Gillen
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WH SMITH has seen quarterly sales jump at its shops in railway stations and airport terminals, buoyed by the roll-out of its food range, but its high street outlets continue to see sales fall.

The magazines and stationary retailer yesterday said like-for-like sales at its travel outlets lifted 4 per cent in the 13 weeks to end-May. Total sales, including new space jumped climbed 8 per cent.

But WH Smith’s high street business saw like-for-like sales fall 4 per cent, reflecting a competitive environment for the stationery and books it sells to general shoppers rather than travellers. That division’s total sales also fell 4 per cent.

Its focus on profit rather than sales at the high street business continued to help improve gross margins, with the retailer also saying that cost savings were delivered in line with its plans. WH Smith said that it remained confident for the outcome for the full year.

However, Paul Thomas, of retail consultancy Retail Remedy, said the gap between the travel and high street stores had transformed into a “gulf”.

He said: “In a rail station or airport, the WH Smith proposition makes perfect sense. Lean, convenient and with the snacks and mags that will appeal to a time-pressed traveller.”