WH Smith travel store sales overshadow high street as retailer hikes dividend

WH Smith

"WH Smith's traditional town centre business has been struggling for years, as online competition heats up and high street footfall sinks", said Nicolas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

And today the company announced that revenue for its 815 shops across train stations and airport terminals has trumped high street sales for the very first time.

Pre-tax profits increase by 7 per cent to £140 million in the year to the end of August on revenue that rose by 2 per cent to more than £1.2 billion.

WH Smith's profits rose again past year boosted by its travel division, which has overtaken its high street arm for the first time.

WH Smith has also proposed a 10 per cent increase in the final dividend per share to 48.2 pence.

The high street arm continued to benefit from tight cost control to help offset flagging sales, although WH Smith cheered spoof humour books as a "key driver" of revenues, which helped counter a sharp drop in sales of so-called colour therapy titles.

For the firm's 225th anniversary year it fittingly opened its 225th global store, and now has 233 open in total.

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It plans to continue focusing on growth in its fast-growing travel business, with 15 United Kingdom units opened in the past financial year.

Shares in the stationary and books supplier fell 2.2% to 2,025p in early trading before recovering slightly to 2,062p.

Commenting on the results, Stephen Clarke, Group Chief Executive, said: "We have delivered a good performance across the Group. The transition has been managed deftly, with the High Street sustaining profits despite falling sales, and the group is now not only present in practically every major United Kingdom travel hub, but operating in airports around the world".

He said: "With travel becoming the major contributor to group performance, these results mark an important milestone for WH Smith".

Profit in travel was up 10 per cent to £96m.

He added the "economic environment remains uncertain", but said WH Smith is well-placed for the year ahead.

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