WH Smith enjoys ‘strong’ trading as travel sales continue to outshine

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

WH Smith 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 – but saw 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: “High street delivered a good performance, particularly in stationery, driven by good growth in Christmas cards, wrap, diaries and fashion stationery.”

“Looking ahead, whilst there is existing uncertainty in the broader economic environment, the group is well-positioned for the year ahead and beyond,” he added.

A 16% rise in total travel sales was helped by its purchase of US digital accessories retailer InMotion, which completed in November, and the group said integration was “progressing well”.

InMotion continued to notch up the strong sales momentum seen before the takeover, added WH Smith.

It also added it was making “good progress” on cost savings aims outlined in October, with another £9 million earmarked for 2018-19.

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

The review will see it close six stores and wind down its 22-strong budget greetings card chain Cardmarket and franchised convenience store arm WH Smith Local.