WH Smith to open more than 120 new travel stores as sales surge

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WH Smith has revealed plans to open more than 120 new shops after resurgent travel demand helped sales rocket over the past six months.

The retailer also saw profits more than double as it continues to shift its focus further towards airport and railway station shops instead of its traditional high street spots.

Boss Carl Cowling hailed “strong” current trading and told shareholders performance was “ahead of expectations for the full year”.

As a result, it also said pre-tax profits rose to £45 million from £18 million in the previous half-year.

WH Smith benefited from a strong rebound in passenger numbers after the easing of pandemic travel restrictions.

The group’s UK travel business saw sales jump by two-thirds to £314 million against the same period a year ago, making it the firm’s largest division.

Meanwhile, it saw high street sales edge 1% lower to £266 million.

Bosses of the group, which has been a mainstay on UK high streets, said its growing travel arm is set to represent over 70% of all revenues by the end of the year, as well as 85% of its profits.

The pipeline of new shops will include significant investment to grow WH Smith’s North American business.

Mr Cowling, chief executive of the group, said: “We have seen a strong performance in the first half of the year, further strengthening our confidence in the prospects of our global travel business.

“Current trading is strong and we are ahead of expectations for the full year.”

The update comes a month after the retailer said it was hit by a cyber attack, with hackers accessing some workers’ data.

WH Smith said names, addresses, national insurance numbers and dates of birth of current and former UK staff may have been among the data breached but its websites and customer accounts were unaffected.

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