WH Smith sales boosted by travel demand, U.S. acquisitions

FILE PHOTO: A company logo is pictured outside a branch of WH Smith in Manchester northern England, March 17, 2016. REUTERS/Phil Noble

(Reuters) - WH Smith SMWH.L said on Wednesday sales in the 20-week period including Christmas rose 7%, as more customers shopped at its outlets in airports and railway stations, but turmoil on the British shopping streets led to lower like-for-like sales.

The retailer, which sells everything from books and sandwiches to Bluetooth headphones, said revenue from its travel division jumped 19% during the period ended Jan. 18, boosted by acquisitions of InMotion and Marshall Retail in the United States.

WH Smith’s network of airport, train station and workplace kiosks have benefited from a boom in travel, although the retail industry continues to reel under weak consumer sentiment on the British high street.

The firm has been focussing on building itself as the go-to store for travellers, while expanding its footprint abroad. It nearly doubled the size of its international travel business with the acquisition of Marshall Retail in October last year.

On Wednesday, WH Smith said integration was progressing well and it had won contracts for eight more stores in the United States since the deal. It will also be opening three outlets in Germany, including one InMotion store.

In WH Smith’s High Street business, where it sells stationery, greeting cards, newspapers and magazines, total sales and like-for-like revenue were both down 5% during the period.

British shoppers cut back on spending in late-2019, marking the worst year for retail sales since at least the mid-1990s, as measured by an industry group, amid uncertainty about Brexit and last month’s election.

WH Smith, founded more than 200 years ago as a news vendor in London, has also been looking to manage its store space and cut down on costs to focus on margins in the business.

Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V