WH Smith off to strong start as travel pivot pays off

WH Smith (LSE: SMWH) shares climbed 1% early Friday after the retailer announced an “excellent” start to its financial year, with total sales up 8% in the first 20 weeks to January 20. The company’s pivot toward travel outlets continues to drive growth, with sales in that division jumping 13%.

“I am pleased with the start to the financial year. Our Travel business is growing strongly across all our divisions,” said Chief Executive Carl Cowling.

The retailer saw especially robust performance in the UK, its largest market, where total travel revenue climbed 15% and like-for-like sales rose 14%. Cowling highlighted the successful opening of WH Smith’s largest UK travel store at Birmingham Airport.

Meanwhile, the company made “excellent progress” in North America, where it is on track to open 50 new stores this financial year and over 110 stores globally. Offset by a 4% drop in lacklustre High Street sales, WH Smith’s overall like-for-like sales still increased 5%.

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“The group is trading well and is in its strongest-ever position as a global travel retailer. We are confident of another year of significant growth in 2024,” Cowling stated ahead of the company’s annual general meeting.

WH Smith announces interim results on April 25. The stock has fallen 21% over the past year.