High Street

WHSmith profits dip as high street arm struggles

WHSmith has reported a dip in its profits for the six months ending February 28, as its high street trading profit fell by 6%.

The company saw a 1% fall in group pre-tax profits to £82m down from £83m in 2017. However WHSmith’s 700 travel stores, located in airports, railways stations and motorway services, continued to perform well with profits increasing by 5% to £41m.

The increase also comes after £1m in set-up costs in relation to expanding its international travel business. WHSmith currently has 258 units open internationally as of 28 February 2018.

The fall in high street trading was attributed to a difficult festive period in which “there was no publishing trend to match last year’s strong sales of humour books over Christmas”.

Group chief executive Stephen Clarke, said: “In travel, which is the largest part of the group in both sales and profit, we continue to see strong sales growth, up 7%, driven by continued investment in our UK and international businesses and ongoing growth in passenger numbers. As a result, profit in travel was up 5% in the period.

“We have also had a record period for tender wins internationally, with 26 new units won since the start of the year, including eight units in Madrid Airport and our first seven units in South America in Rio de Janeiro. We are now present in 48 airports across 27 countries.”

He added: “Our high street business delivered a good first half performance, despite no publishing trend to match last year’s strong sales of humour books over Christmas. Stationery performed particularly well in the period, including our seasonal categories over Christmas and our 2018 fashion ranges.

“These results are only possible through the hard work of all of our teams across the business and I am very grateful for their hard work and support. While there is some uncertainty in the broader economic environment, we have made a good start to the second half of the financial year, increased the interim dividend by 10% and are confident in the outcome for the full year.”  

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