Belfast Telegraph

WH Smith happy with growing travel division and steady Christmas sales

Stephen Clarke
Stephen Clarke

By Holly Williams

WH Smith has cheered a strong performance as its high street stores saw a stable Christmas trading period and sales lifted across its burgeoning travel arm.

The retailer, which operates from three locations in Northern Ireland, reported a 2% fall in high street like-for-like sales in the 20 weeks to January 19 - in line with trading in the first eight weeks.

However, the company did see a 3% rise in comparable sales across its larger travel division.

Overall group like-for-like sales remained flat in the 20-week period.

Stephen Clarke, group chief executive of WH Smith, hailed a "strong" trading performance.

He said: "The high street delivered a good performance, particularly in stationery, driven by good growth in Christmas cards, wrap, diaries and fashion stationery.

"Looking ahead, while there is existing uncertainty in the broader economic environment, the group is well-positioned for the year ahead and beyond."

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A 16% rise in total travel sales was helped by the purchase of US digital accessories retailer InMotion in November.

The firm added it was making "good progress" on savings aims outlined in October, with another £9m earmarked for 2018-19.

WH Smith announced a restructure to shut a handful of shops and call time on new initiatives, instead focusing on growth opportunities for its chain of stores based at airports and railway stations.

Six stores will close when leases expire and both its 22-strong budget greetings card chain Cardmarket and franchised convenience store arm WH Smith Local will be wound down.

Belfast Telegraph