WHSmith’s Christmas travel sales offsets poor high street trading

WHSmith Carl Cowling Christmas trading update
In the 20 weeks to January 18, total revenue rose 7%
// WHSmith’s overall Christmas sales rose 7% but dropped 1% on a like-for-like basis
// Its travel arm saw revenue jump by 19% thanks to the acquisitions of InMotion & Marshall Retail Group
// Its high street performance saw sales drop 5% on a total and like-for-like basis

WHSmith’s overall sales during the Christmas trading period have risen, despite dropping on a like-for-like basis.

The stationery and book retailer’s stable travel performance helped offset a decline in high street revenue.

In the 20 weeks to January 18, overall revenue rose seven per cent, while like-for-like sales dropped by a mere one per cent.

READ MORE: WHSmith to face backlash over CEO Carl Cowling’s pension

WHSmith’s travel arm saw its revenue jump by 19 per cent thanks to the recent acquisitions of InMotion and Marshall Retail Group.

Meanwhile, like-for-likes in its travel arm rose by three per cent.

WHSmith said its UK business “saw good sales growth across all of our key channels with strong sales per passenger driven by our initiatives and ongoing investment”, with gross margins in line with expectations.

It is now focusing on opening a further 20 stores this year, with a new flagship pharmacy store format at Heathrow Terminal 2 to add to its 590 store portfolio in the UK.

However, the retailer’s high street performance saw sales drop by five per cent on a total and like-for-like basis, although gross margin was ahead of plan and the business identified a further £3 million in cost savings during the period.

“During the period, we completed the acquisition of MRG ahead of plan and integration into the group is progressing well,” WHSmith chief executive Carl Cowling said.

“This acquisition is in line with our strategic focus to grow travel, almost doubles the size of our international travel business and accelerates growth in the US, the world’s largest travel retail market.

“Our high street strategy continues to deliver through continued gross margin gains and tight cost control.

“Looking ahead, we are on track for the current year and as we continue to grow our share of the global travel retail market, the group is well positioned for the years ahead.”

Last week, WHSmith was reportedly on the verge of becoming the first major retailer to face a pay backlash this year over a pension award to Cowling.

The Investment Association (IA) issued a red-top alert over the retailer’s remuneration report ahead of this month’s AGM, Sky News reported.

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