The group reported a 4 per cent slide in like-for-like sales across WH Smith Travel – which has 495 outlets in airports, train stations and motorway service stations. However retail analysts said the group had minimised the damage to profits by saving on rent and staff costs while airports were closed.
John Stevenson of KBC Peel Hunt said airport shops had "turnover based rent" which meant they did not have to cover their normal costs while the airports were empty.
In its interim management statement published yesterday, the retailer said sales during the second half of the financial year were down 3 per cent with like-for-like sales down 4 per cent compared to last year.
Like-for-like sales in WH Smith's 569 high street stores were also down 4 per cent.
The statement said figures were in line with expectation: "We confirm that our financial position is in line with market expectations and our balance sheet remains strong. We continue to generate high levels of cash from our operations."