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

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

WH Smith generated higher sales from its travel shops than its high street stores for the first time in its 225-year history on the back of a surge in tourists splurging on Union Jack souvenirs and global growth.

And while travel trading profit rose 10 per cent, high street trading profit remained flat at £62m.

Shares fell 2% despite WH Smith announcing a 10% rise in its final shareholder dividend payout to 48.2p.

He said: "The travel business continues to perform well with strong revenue growth, up 9% in the year".

WH Smith has 582 travel stores across the United Kingdom, as well as a growing overseas footprint, with 233 global shops.

"While the economic environment remains uncertain, we are well positioned for the current year and beyond".

Fads such as spoof books (think Enid Blyton parody Five on Brexit Island) and adult colouring books have provided a boon to the retailer's high street sales in recent results, but its travel arm has been doing much of the heavy lifting.

WH Smith said it is targeting a further £9mln of cost savings for the next financial year.

Commenting on the results, Stephen Clarke, Group Chief Executive, said: "We have delivered a good performance across the Group".

He said the group had never been "overly obsessed with sales" at the high street division, instead focusing on keeping a lid on costs, growing margins and making best use of space.

Revenue for the segment was up 9%, overtaking its high-street business, which declined by 5%. This represents more than 60 per cent of the group's trading profits and includes £9 million from its growing global travel business.

"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.

"Overall we like WH Smith's direction of travel".

Profit in travel was up 10 per cent to £96m. "The trend is only likely to continue".



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