Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 11°C

min temp: 1°C

Search

Retail: WH Smith continues progress on margins despite dip in festive period sales

09:47 22 January 2014

WH Smith today reported further progress on improving its margins.

WH Smith today reported further progress on improving its margins.

Archant

WH Smith today shrugged off a tenth successive year of falling Christmas sales as it highlighted a “good profit performance” driven by a continued squeeze on costs.

shares

Like-for-like sales were down 4% for the 20 weeks to January 18 and have been consistently negative for the period since 2005 but the retailer’s strategy of focusing instead on margins has won-over City analysts.

Its 615 high street stores saw a fall of 6% but WH Smith said there was good margin improvement and costs were tightly managed.

In the retailer’s travel division, which has 673 units at airports, railway stations and motorway services, like-for-like sales were down 1%, again with margin improvement, and a store opening programme progressing well.

The group said it had identified further opportunities for growth in both the UK and abroad.

It also began to deliver on its pledge of returning £50million of cash to investors, buying 1.6m shares at an average price of £9.57, after last year reporting annual profits up 6% at £108m.

Chief executive Stephen Clarke said: “During the period we have delivered another good profit performance across the group with costs tightly controlled and further improvement in gross margin.

“Looking ahead, we continue to plan cautiously and manage the business tightly while investing in new opportunities for future growth. We are confident in making further progress in the year.”

WH Smith slashed £18m of costs from its high street network during 2012/13 and has said it is targeting a further £22 million savings over the following three years.

The chain has weathered the downturn with the help of “impulse” offers such as a free bottle of water with the Telegraph newspaper, while shifting its focus away from lower-margin CDs and DVDs towards books and stationery.

WH Smith shares opened more than 2% higher today, with analysts at Cantor Fitzgerald Stockbrokers sticking by their forecast for profits of £108m in the current financial year.

shares

0 comments

The Orwell Bridge.

Police were called to the Orwell Bridge after concerns were raised over a man’s welfare on Friday afternoon.

The 

Woodbridge Marina Tide Mill, the area in which Suffolk Secrets is based. Picture: Mike Page.

A suspicious fire at a holiday cottage lettings agency in Woodbridge on Friday night is being investigated.

A body has been found in a flat in The Street in Bramford.

A man found dead in his flat after failing to turn up for work has been named locally.

Joe Stilgoe, headlining this year's Ipswich School Festival of Music. Photo: Prasanna Puwanarajah

Hailed Britain’s very own Harry Connick Jr, Joe Stilgoe makes a welcome return to the Ipswich School Festival of Music this year.

Medieval Mayhem at Framlingham Castle. Photo: Nigel Wallace-Iles

From medieval mayhem and country shows to classic vehicles and hip hop, there’s lots to enjoy this long weekend. F

There were 7,365 admissions to Suffolks two main hospitals in 2014/15 where obesity was the main reason for a person being admitted or was a secondary factor. Photo: PA.

Obesity levels are worse in Suffolk than every London borough, a new report revealing the growing challenges facing the county’s health chiefs has shown.

Henry Dunham and Sam Crimp visit Ipswich Town Football Club meet with the squad ahead of the pair's fundraising trek to Kathmandu in a few week's time, which will raise funds for charity in memory of Henry's sister Annie Hughes.

Two fundraisers from Suffolk have met with the Ipswich Town squad – after a chance encounter with a good friend of club boss Mick McCarthy.

Firefighters at the scene of a fire at The George, Wickham Market, in 2013

Fresh calls for answers as to the future of a medieval Suffolk pub have been issued after more than 200 people turned out to a public meeting on the matter last week.

USAF fighter planes from RAF Lakenheath taken from a C130 Hercules

Almost £250,000 has been paid out in compensation for damage, injuries and loss of livestock caused by low flying military aircraft in East Anglia over the past five years, figures show.

James Fairweather has been found guilty of murdering Nahid Almanea and James Attfield

The Colchester teenager convicted of murdering James Attfield and Nahid Almanea in Colchester in 2014 must serve a minimum of 27 years in jail.

Most read

Most commented

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Streetlife

Newsletter Sign Up

Great British Life

Great British Life
MyDate24 MyPhotos24