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High Street

WH Smith trading ‘better than anticipated’

The chain which was classed as an ‘essential’ retailer revealed that total group revenue was just 59% of 2019 revenue for the same period

WH Smith has posted its trading update for the 16 weeks to January, with the company reporting a “better than anticipated” sales performance. 

The group has said it adapted well to the “evolving trading environment” on the high street, with revenue in stores in December at 92% of 2019 levels.  

Despite this, the chain which was classed as an ‘essential’ retailer revealed that total group revenue was just 59% of 2019 revenue for the same period. 

The group also expects its underlying monthly cash burn for the period January to March 2021 to be around £15m-£20m per month assuming the current conditions continue.

In travel, total revenue was 37% of 2019 revenue for the 20 week period, with Carl Cowling the company’s chief executive noting that  he “saw little change in the environment prior to the current lockdown”.

Cowling said: “Covid-19 continues to have a significant impact on the WH Smith Group, however we are pleased with our performance over the Christmas period which was better than anticipated. 

“Our key priority is the health and wellbeing of both our colleagues and our customers and continuing to provide a safe environment for them. In our High Street business, we worked hard to navigate our way through the evolving Covid restrictions as we approached the Christmas trading period.”

He added: “This positioned us well, resulting in a better than expected Christmas with sales in December at 92% of 2019 levels. Our online businesses continued to deliver significant year on year growth in the period.”

“We generated cash during November and December and ended December with a stronger cash position than anticipated with liquidity of £90m, which is materially ahead of our original plan.”

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