Airports boost WH Smith as high street sales decline

WH Smith generated more sales from its travel business than high street stores in the year to August 31, highlighting the company’s successful shift in focus in response to decline on Britain’s high streets.

Total annual revenues of £1.2bn were in line with analyst forecasts, up 2 per cent on a reported basis and flat on a like for like basis.

Pre-tax profits rose faster, however, up 7% to £140m.

The 225-year old company has responded to falling high street footfall and the growth of online shopping by returning to its roots as a bookseller on Victorian railways.

The retailer’s high street book- and stationery stores have increasingly faded in importance next to its “travel” arm, which takes advantage of the captive audiences offered by railway stations, airports and hospitals to sell products ranging from sandwiches to Apple tech products.

High street revenues fell 5%, though cost savings and improved inventory management meant profits were steady. In contrast, travel revenues grew 9%, helped by higher passenger numbers and the impact of a weaker pound.

By Nicholas Megaw for Financial Times 


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