WH Smith sees travel stores trump high street for the first time
WH SMITH has revealed that sales from its shops in train stations and airports have overtaken high street stores for the first time as it posted a seven per cent hike in annual profits.
The retailer said its burgeoning travel arm is now the largest part of the group by both sales and profit, notching up a 10 per cent surge in annual earnings to £96m and accounting for nearly two-thirds of group trading profits.
This helped offset ongoing pressure on the high street chain, which has 611 high street stores.
It saw trading profits remain flat at £62m and like-for-like sales fall four per cent in the year to August 31, despite a boost from spoof humour books such as Bruno Vincent’s Enid Blyton for grown-ups title, Five On Brexit Island.
Chief executive Stephen Clarke hailed a “good performance” across the group as overall pretax profits rose to £140m from £131m.
He said: “The travel business continues to perform well with strong revenue growth, up nine per cent in the year.
“For the first time, revenue in travel has overtaken high street, and travel is now the largest part of the group in both revenue and profit.”
He added the “economic environment remains uncertain”, but said WH Smith is well-placed for the year ahead.
Shares fell two per cent despite WH Smith announcing a 10 per cent rise in its final shareholder dividend payout to 48.2p.
WH Smith has 582 travel stores across the UK, as well as a growing overseas footprint, with 233 international shops.
It said the overseas stores contributed £9m of the £96m reported for the travel business.
PROFIT HIKE: WH Smith posted a seven per cent rise in profits with its travel arm now the largest part of the group.