LONDON Jan 22 British books, newspaper and
stationery retailer WH Smith said it was confident of
making further progress in 2014 as it repeated its long
established pattern of reporting declining sales accompanied by
profit margin gains.
The 222-year-old firm said on Wednesday both its total sales
and sales at stores open over a year fell 4 percent in the 20
weeks to Jan. 18, while gross margin improved and costs were
Despite signs the British economy is improving, household
incomes have stayed under pressure as inflation outstrips
average pay rises, and retailers' Christmas trading updates have
shown mixed results.
Like-for-like sales at WH Smith's travel division, made up
of outlets at airports, railway stations, motorway service
stations, hospitals and workplaces, fell 1 percent.
That outcome reflected a recent improvement in sales trends,
particularly in airport traffic.
Like-for-like sales were down 6 percent at the firm's high
street division, in line with internal expectations.
"Looking ahead, we continue to plan cautiously and manage
the business tightly while investing in new opportunities for
future growth," said Chief Executive Stephen Clarke.
"We are confident in making further progress in the year."
Shares in WH Smith, up 57 percent over the last year, closed
Tuesday at 1,016 pence, valuing the business at 1.23 billion
pounds ($2.03 billion).