WHSmith Christmas sales boosted by travel division

// WHSmith reveals 2% fall in high street like-for-likes
// 3% rise in like-for-likes across its travel division
// Travel sales saw 16% rise

WHSmith has posted a six per cent uptick in total sales in the 20 weeks to January 19 as sales were bolstered by its travel division.

It also posted a two per cent fall in high street like-for-like sales during the same period, but saw a three per cent rise in like-for-likes across its more prominent travel division.

Overall, the retailer’s group like-for-like sales remained flat for the quarter.

The books and stationery retailer reported a strong growth in travel sales with a 16 per cent rise — of which eight per cent came from InMotion, the US travel chain it had acquired back in autumn.

Meanwhile, WHSmith’s high street division saw sales fall by one per cent in total and two per cent on a like-for-like basis, continuing a longstanding trend.

However, gross margins increased and the retailer said it would deliver £9 million of cost savings.

Christmas cards, wrap, diaries and fashion stationary sold particularly well.

“Looking ahead, whilst there is existing uncertainty in the broader economic environment, the group is well positioned for the year ahead and beyond,” WHSmith chief executive Stephen Clarke said.

“The group has delivered a strong trading performance with total sales up six per cent and like-for-like sales flat.

“Our travel business continued to grow across all channels. This was driven by our ongoing investment in the business, including the roll-out of our new concept stores at Heathrow and growth in air passenger numbers.”

He added: “High street delivered a good performance, particularly in stationery, driven by good growth in Christmas cards, wrap, diaries and fashion stationery.”

WHSmith’s group shares have fallen by 11 per cent over last year, though they have outperformed many other high street retailers over a longer period, almost doubling since 2014.

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