Sales at variety retailer WHSmith continued to fall over the Christmas trading period but according to a trading statement released today its management is confident that its restructuring process is still on track.
High street trade for the retailer continued to struggle this winter, with like-for-like (LFL) sales down seven per cent and six per cent respectively for the eight and 21-week periods to January 22nd.
Over the longer period total sales across the group fell four per cent whilst LFL sales declined five per cent year-on-year, with even the strongest arm of the company, its travel division, seeing a trading decline.
In the first ten weeks of its financial year beginning in September LFL travel store sales dropped one per cent, and in the 21 weeks covered by this update they retreated three per cent with total sales flat.
Kate Swann, Group CEO said: “During the period we saw a resilient performance across both our high street and travel divisions, despite challenging weather conditions.
“Our staff worked extremely hard during this period to maintain the best possible service for our customers.”
Despite a decline in trading during its last full-year period, WHSmith still managed to post a nine per cent increase in profits before tax, and due to further cost-cutting overall performance remains on target.
Swann added: “With gross margin ahead of plan and costs tightly controlled, overall performance for the period was in line with expectations.
“Looking ahead, we expect the trading environment to remain challenging and we have planned accordingly.”
Also announced today was a new five-year revolving credit facility of £70 million, organised through Barclays Corporate, Lloyds Banking Group and Santander UK PLC, which will mature on January 24th 2016.