More travel stores to open at WH Smith

WH Smith boss Kate Swann today signalled further expansion for the group’s travel business after it helped the retailer defy more trading pressure.

The group, which operates some 1,200 stores, said profits rose 3 per cent to £66 million in the six months to 29 February, despite a 5 per cent fall in like-for-like sales after a poor selection of celebrity biographies dented trade.

The travel division, which features stores at airports, railway stations and motorway service areas, saw profits rise 8 per cent to £27m and made up for a flat performance on the high street where sales were hardest hit.

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Swann said the travel division will open 17 UK stores in the second half of its financial year on top of the 18 opened in the first half, while it announced a further 20 new stores overseas, bringing total planned international openings to 80.

Today’s performance will further enhance the reputation of Swann who has been credited for guiding the business through the retail storm by ditching CDs and DVDs and focusing on higher margin products such as stationery and books.

She said: “Looking ahead, we expect the trading environment to be challenging, however we are a resilient business with a consistent record of both profit growth and cash generation and we have opportunities for growth in the UK and internationally.”