WH Smith has welcomed a strong start to its financial year, assuring investors it is set to return to profit in 2022 as business and travel continues to rebound.
Travel revenue now stands at 84% of the October 2019 level, following the continued easing of restrictions post-pandemic.
The group said it is now in a “strong position” to benefit from future growth opportunities, with over 100 new stores won and planned to open in Travel over the next three years, including 58 in North America.
It comes as the North American market witnessed a good recovery in recent months, with a trading profit of £6m as well as “significant” new business wins at major US airports.
Throughout FY21, the group also won all 30 of its technology stores across UK airports, where it will now showcase its US brand, InMotion.
Meanwhile, WH Smith reported a high street trading profit of £19m, as well as a “record” performance from funkypigeon.com.
Nonetheless, the group still faced a loss before tax of £55m, reflecting global travel restrictions in FY21.
Carl Cowling, CEO, said: “The group has delivered a good performance in the evolving trading environment. Thanks to the outstanding efforts of all our colleagues across the business, we have continued to adapt successfully to the changing environment and we are now in a strong position to grow our business as our markets continue to recover, returning to meaningful profitability in the current financial year.
“In addition to the InMotion stores in the UK, we have a very strong pipeline of new store openings with over 100 stores already won and due to open in Travel over the next three years – the majority of these in North America. We expect more space to become available as our markets recover and we are very well positioned to benefit from these opportunities.”
He added: “Despite the challenges of the UK high street, more generally, our High Street business has delivered a resilient and profitable performance. Our online businesses have delivered strong growth in the year, including a record performance from funkypigeon.com.
“We are a financially strong and resilient group with significant opportunities to grow. While we continue to plan with caution, the group is well positioned to capitalise on the recovery in our key markets and take advantage of the many exciting opportunities ahead.”