Total revenue was also up 19% in the group’s travel business, with like-for-like revenue up 3%. The retailer said its UK travel arm saw “good sales growth”, with “strong sales per passenger driven by [its] initiatives and ongoing investment”.
Meanwhile, the group’s high street business delivered “sustainable profit” and “good cash generation”, though total revenue and like-for-like revenue both fell by 5%. Gross margin was “ahead of plan”, however, and the group said that it has identified £3m of additional cost savings.
The group plans to open 15 to 20 new UK units this year, and following its “successful” partnership with Well Pharmacy, it also plans to open a new flagship pharmacy format at Heathrow Terminal 2.
Growth of its travel business outside of the UK also “progressed well” in the period. This follows the group’s acquisition of Marshall Retail Group last December, which operates across airports, resorts and other tourist retail channels throughout the US.
The group said that its store opening programme for MRG remains “on track”, and it will be opening a further eight units in the US, including MRG, WH Smith and InMotion branded stores.
The group has also made “good progress” outside the US, with plans to open three new units in Berlin Brandenburg Airport. WH Smith Travel now operates over 600 stores outside of the UK, and over 590 stores in the UK, a total of nearly 1,200 Travel stores across 32 countries.
Carl Cowling, group chief executive, said: “During the period, we completed the acquisition of MRG ahead of plan and integration into the Group is progressing well. This acquisition is in line with our strategic focus to grow travel, almost doubles the size of our International Travel business and accelerates growth in the US, the world’s largest travel retail market.”
He added: “In UK travel, we have seen continued growth across all our key channels and we are on track to open a new flagship pharmacy format at Heathrow Terminal 2 this summer. Our High Street strategy continues to deliver through continued gross margin gains and tight cost control.
“Looking ahead, we are on track for the current year and as we continue to grow our share of the global travel retail market, the group is well positioned for the years ahead.”