Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 11°C

min temp: 10°C


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.


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.

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.


A 65-year-old man has been charged with dangerous driving and failing to notify the authorities of a disability after a cyclist sustained life-threatening injuries in Ipswich.

An Ipswich Hospital receptionist is paying the price for her curiosity today after illegally accessing patients’ medical records landed her in court.

An Ipswich Town season ticket holder and lifelong Suffolk resident is already back at work just nine weeks after pioneering new surgery removed a large brain tumour.

A Suffolk vet says he was presented with the strangest case of his career after a puppy bit off more than it could chew.

Groups of ‘thugs’ went on a destructive rampage on Norwich Road in Ipswich at the weekend - kicking down garden walls, smashing bins and leaving the area looking ‘like a bomb site’.

Three fire crews were called to reports of a blaze along a Suffolk railway embankment this morning.

Couples seeking help in conceiving are invited to an open day at Ipswich Hospital to meet fertility experts.

Volunteer teachers are working to transform the lives of migrants and refugees in the most deprived areas of Ipswich as part of a newly established charity.

There is slow traffic on the A12 in Suffolk this afternoon because of a broken down vehicle.

How well do you really know Ipswich?

Most read

Most commented


Show Job Lists

Topic pages


Newsletter Sign Up

MyDate24 MyPhotos24