Belfast Telegraph

WH Smith's profits stay on track despite slide in sales

Wh Smith boss Kate Swann hailed the retailer's resilience after it withstood a further slide in high street sales.

She said the company was still on track to meet City targets after improvement in its all-important profit margins at both its high street shops and in travel stores for the 21 weeks to January 21.

This was despite a 6% drop in high street sales, where a poor selection of celebrity biographies is likely to have dented trade, and a 3% drop for its portfolio of station, airport and motorway stores.

Ms Swann, who joined the business in 2003, has shifted the company's focus away from lower-margin CDs and DVDs and looked to reduce the chain's dependence on the Christmas season.

The former Tesco marketing director said: "Over the past six years both businesses have consistently increased profits and the group is now well balanced between travel and high street.

"As a result of this, the months of November and December now represent less than half of annual group profit compared to over 90% of group profit six years ago."

Shares opened more than 2% higher yesterday as analysts expressed relief that the company remained on track for profits of just under £100m this year.

Ms Swann added: "Looking ahead, we expect the trading environment to be challenging, however we have planned accordingly and continue to be confident in making further progress in the year."