WH Smith sees travel stores trump high street for the first time

Yorkshire Post - - BUSINESS -

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.

PIC­TURE: PHILIP TOSCANO/PA WIRE

PROFIT HIKE: WH Smith posted a seven per cent rise in prof­its with its travel arm now the largest part of the group.

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