Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 10°C

min temp: 8°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.



The former Croydon's store in Ipswich - set to become a Jack Wills store.

One of the best-known new clothing chains in Britain is set to take over the former Croydon’s store in Ipswich’s Tavern Street.

Families are campaigning against the closure of the Crossroads Saturday Club for children on the autistic spectrum.

Parents have launched a campaign to re-open a Saturday club which provided support for children on the autistic spectrum in Suffolk.

Delays to Abellio Greater Anglia rail services

A train fault is causing disruption in the Ipswich area this morning, causing some services to be cancelled or delayed at short notice.

Suffolk police have been informed

A car was found to be “well alight” when fire crews arrived at the scene in Alan Road, Ipswich, last night, after receiving multiple calls to the incident.

Britain Stronger in Europe launch. Campaign to keep the UK in the EU being officially kicked off. Stuart rose, businessmen, and leader of the campaign gives a speech at the Britain Stronger in Euro campaign. The Truman Brewery,. London. Daniel Leal-Olivas

Prominent East Anglian figures have traded verbal blows over Britain’s future in the European Union amid the launch of opposing campaigns.

Bike marking (file photo)

Police have apologised to cyclists after failing to turn up to a crime reduction and safety awareness event in Ipswich.

The launch of the Children in Need cow poo fundraiser at Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses in Creeting St Mary. L-R: Pudsey, Mark Murphy, Katharine Salisbury, Diamond the cow, Jason Salisbury and Tory Lugsden.

Diamond the cow is preparing for what could be the most important day of her life.

The Spread Eagle pub in Ipswich re-opens. Geoff Wright and Lou Weeden are pictured.

One of Ipswich’s oldest pubs has re-opened under new ownership after more than six months of being closed, and looks set to become a haven for craft beer enthusiasts.

The driver of a car suffered a medical episode in Felixstowe today.

A woman was released from a car after a crash involving three vehicles in Essex.

Most read

Most commented

Topic pages