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WH Smith sales to hit top of targets after travel recovery

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WH Smith has said the resumption of travel has driven sales beyond pre-pandemic levels for the first time since the heavy toll of coronavirus.

The retail firm told shareholders on Wednesday that it now expects annual trading to be at the top end of analyst expectations.

The company said it has seen a particularly sharp recovery at airport stores, amid a sharp increase in holidaymakers travelling internationally.

WH Smith’s total sales were up 107% of pre-pandemic levels over the 15 weeks to June 11, with travel sales at 123% of the performance over the same period in 2019.

It has been buoyed by expansion in the travel sector, having purchased US-based airport technology retailer InMotion in 2018.

The group added that it is due to expand further across the travel retail sector, with agreements on 125 new stores which have yet to open.

“In addition, there are a large number of ongoing tenders across our markets,” the company added.

A general view of an employee at a WH Smith store in Bristol (Anthony Devlin/PA)
A general view of an employee at a WH Smith store in Bristol (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Rail stores also reported a recovery in trade as more people return offices and spend more time commuting, although these sales remained below pre-pandemic levels.

Meanwhile, high street trading reported a slowdown to 79% of 2019’s levels over the 15-week period.

WH Smith highlighted that this included a negative impact from its Funky Pigeon online greeting cards business which saw orders halted by a cyber attack.

In a statement, WH Smith said: “While the broader global economy remains uncertain, the group is well positioned to capitalise on the ongoing recovery in our key markets and take advantage of the many opportunities ahead, including the 125 new stores won and yet to open, and our new store formats and category development across multiple geographies.

“Travel continues to perform strongly across all three divisions and we expect this to be maintained into the peak summer trading period.

“As a result, we now anticipate the full year outturn to be at the higher end of analysts’ expectations.”

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