// WHSmith made a £14 million pre-tax profit in its first half compared to a £19 million loss last year
// The retailer benefitted from increased travel, with sales in stores in railways stations and airports beating pre-pandemic levels in recent weeks
WHSmith has returned to profit in its first half as travel sales have surged past pre-pandemic levels in recent weeks.
Profit before tax and underlying items hit £14 million in the six months to 28 February, rebounding from a £19 million loss a year ago.
The retailer flagged a strong recovery in travel sales in recent weeks with revenue surging 114% on 2019 levels in the eight weeks to 23 April.
Last year its travel arm, which was hit hard during the pandemic, fell into a £28 million loss but made a £10 million profit in its first half with sales more than doubling to £338 million.
WHSmith now plans to ramp up its travel stores with 125 new stores in the pipeline, including in North America and 31 in Spain.
In its high street locations sales remained flat although trading profit rose 8.3% to £26 million.
WHSmith chief executive Carl Cowling said: “The group has delivered a good performance with a strong rebound in profitability. We have seen a recovery across all our travel markets despite the impact of the Omicron variant in Q2, and we are in a strong position to capture growth as the recovery continues.”
“We continue to invest in the business where we see attractive growth opportunities and have positioned the group well to benefit from the return of passenger numbers. We have improved the scale and footprint of the business and are operationally stronger than prior to the pandemic.
“While there are some uncertainties in the broader global economy, the group is well positioned to capitalise on the ongoing recovery in our key markets and take advantage of the many opportunities ahead.”