Travel division boosts WH Smith

Outlets in airports and railway stations were more profitable than high street shops for the 225-year-old retailer

Its travel business is performing particularly well, WH Smith said.

"In response the company focused on building up the travel business in stations and airports, while managing the decline of the high street estate".

The travel and high-street retailer posted a pretax profit of GBP140 million for the 12 months ending August 31, compared with GBP131 million the year before.

Pre-tax profit has grown by 7 per cent at WH Smith boosted by a strong performance from its travel division, which now makes up the largest part of the group. Travel is the largest part of WH Smith, in both revenue and profit.

For the firm's 225th anniversary year it fittingly opened its 225th worldwide store, and now has 233 open in total.

The group proposed a final dividend of 33.6p, up 10% on the prior year, bringing the total dividend to 48.2p compared to 43.9p in 2016.

Fads such as spoof books (think Enid Blyton parody Five on Brexit Island) and adult colouring books have provided a boon to the retailer's high street sales in recent results, but its travel arm has been doing much of the heavy lifting.

"The Travel business continues to perform well with strong revenue growth, up 9% in the year". This represents more than 60 per cent of the group's trading profits and includes £9 million from its growing worldwide travel business.

Commenting on the results, Stephen Clarke, Group Chief Executive, said: "We have delivered a good performance across the Group. Falling sales on the high street will inevitably hit profits eventually, but continued success in Travel should mean that's a smaller headwind going forwards".

Shares in the stationary and books supplier fell 2.2% to 2,025p in early trading before recovering slightly to 2,062p.

He added the "economic environment remains uncertain", but said WH Smith is well-placed for the year ahead.

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