WH Smith puts fo­cus on for­eign growth as high street dwin­dles

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Aye­sha Javed

WH SMITH is pin­ning its hopes on rapid in­ter­na­tional ex­pan­sion to off­set an on­go­ing de­cline in prof­its on the high street.

The FTSE 250 re­tailer plans to open 26 sites out­side the UK this year, in­clud­ing eight at Madrid Air­port and seven in Rio de Janeiro Galeão Air­port – its first ever shops in South Amer­ica.

The re­tailer is also open­ing more sites in Aus­tralia, In­dia, Malaysia and Ali­cante. It al­ready has a pres­ence in 48 air­ports and 27 coun­tries out­side the UK.

The com­pany’s travel divi­sion, which in­cludes its shops in train sta­tions and air­ports, con­tin­ues to out­strip its high street divi­sion.

For the six months to Feb 28, prof­its rose 5pc in its travel arm to £41m, com­pared to a 6pc slide on the high street to £50m. Over­all pre-tax prof­its slipped 1pc to £82m, while rev­enue was flat at £643m. The re­tailer raised its in­terim div­i­dend by 10pc to 16p per share.

Stephen Clarke, the chief ex­ec­u­tive, said: “Given what’s go­ing on in the UK high street, for that to be our third best profit num­ber in 15 years, I think is a good demon­stra­tion that the strat­egy that we’ve had in place for the last 15 years, which we haven’t changed, is es­pe­cially fit for pur­pose for to­day’s trad­ing en­vi­ron­ment.”

WH Smith has kept prof­its healthy by cut­ting costs where pos­si­ble. In the last two years its high street stores have also been lifted by sales of par­ody books and the adult colour­ing trend.

While rev­enue de­clined 5pc in the re­tailer’s 610 high street stores, Mr Clarke said he did not see any need to close out­lets. Shares in the com­pany closed up 2pc at £20.18.

Stephen Clarke, CEO, said the group’s strat­egy of 15 years is con­tin­u­ing to pay off in the cur­rent trad­ing en­vi­ron­ment

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