WH Smith sales surge as more people travel

WH Smith said full-year sales jumped higher thanks to the rebound in international travel
WH Smith said full-year sales jumped higher thanks to the rebound in international travel

RETAILER WH Smith has welcomed the ongoing rebound in travel worldwide for helping its full-year sales jump higher thanks to a boom in trading at its shops in airports and railway stations.

The group saw sales in its travel arm leap 42 per cent higher, up 27 per cent on a like-for-like basis, over the year to August 31.

Second-half comparable travel sales lifted 15 per cent, while sales edged 1 per cent higher in its high street estate.

Travel sales growth slowed from a 48 per cent surge on a like-for-like basis in the first half, although this was compared with pandemic-hit trading in early 2022.

WH Smith said the performance helped drive a 28 per cent rise in total group revenues over the full-year, after a 17 per cent rise in the second half, keeping it on track for recently upgraded profit expectations.

It said: "In the UK, we saw continued strength in air passenger numbers in the peak holiday season, building on the recovery in passenger numbers that we saw in the second half of the previous financial year."

The group hiked its annual profit outlook in May for the second time in two months.

While its airport and hospital-based stores are seeing impressive trading, WH Smith's railway sites have seen sales held back by recent strike action, although the group said these outlets still put in a "resilient" performance.

It said recently that its growing travel arm is set to represent more than 70 per cent of all revenues by the end of the year, as well as 85 per cent of its profits.

The firm is expanding particularly quickly across North America, where total annual revenues rose 31 per cent.

It opened 43 sites across North America in the past year and plans to add at least another 40 in the year to August 2024.

In the UK, it opened 20 new stores, including eight new sites in hospitals in the past year, with more than 15 in the pipeline for the year ahead, as well as 25 elsewhere worldwide.