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WH Smith set to open 100 new travel shops after £325m cash boost

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Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter
·2-min read
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WH Smith has said it plans to open 100 new travel stores after securing £325 million in financing to fund its growth plans.

The high street stalwart also said it has also identified around 300 potential sites for stores in hospitals across the UK.

It told investors on Wednesday afternoon that it has secured £325 million in convertible bonds, as well as a £250 million credit facility from its banks, which will mature in 2025.

WH Smith said that around £50 million from the new bond funding will be used to deliver its pipeline of travel stores over the next three years, as well as other expansion targets.

WH Smith financials
The retailer said its high street sales fell by 14% in the past six months (Philip Toscano/PA)

It said it has a pipeline of 68 stores to open in the US, with the remaining travel stores set to open across the UK, Australia and the rest of Europe.

The group said its “expects a substantial amount of new space to become available” following the pandemic, including new tenders at international airports and believes it is “well-positioned” to capitalise on this growth opportunity.

Earlier on Wednesday, retail rival Dixons Carphone announced plans to shut its Dixons Travel business of 35 stores for good after it was battered by travel restrictions.

It came as the retailer swung to loss for the past six months after travel revenues were hammered by restrictions in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The retail giant reported a pre-tax loss of £38 million for the half-year to February, sliding from a £63 million profit in the same period last year.

Group sales dropped by 44% to £420 million, as travel sales plunged by 65% to £150 million for the period.

Meanwhile, its high street retail business, which has been impacted by lower footfall, saw a more modest 14% decline in revenues to £270 million.

Carl Cowling, group chief executive at WH Smith, said: “Thanks to the outstanding work of all our colleagues across the business, the group has adapted well to the evolving trading environment and we are in a strong position as our markets begin to recover.

“In travel, while many of our stores have remained closed, it is a credit to the team that we have kept up the momentum, focusing on our plan to increase average transaction value and spend per passenger while continuing to win new business.

“As a result, we are now operationally stronger than prior to the pandemic.”