WHSmith Intl restructures; MD Phil McNally to leave

By Luke Barras-hill |

WHSmith’s International division is undergoing a management and territory restructure as the business positions itself to capitalise on future growth opportunities in the recovery phase, TRBusiness can reveal.

Managing Director Phil McNally will leave his post at the end of the year to join veterinary care provider IVC Evidensia as Group Commercial Director reporting to IVC Evidensia Group Chief Executive and former WHSmith CEO Stephen Clarke, this publication has learned.

McNally leaves the WHSmith business after 17 years of dedicated service to embark on a fresh challenge within a new industry.

Gavin Wood, currently International Operations Director, assumes the role of Managing Director Europe, Middle East and India and takes on the majority of McNally’s responsibilities.

Phil McNally, Managing Director, WHSmith International moves on from the Group after 17 years of committed service.


He joined the senior team at WHSmith International three years ago after spending 25 years at the business formerly known as Dixons, 20 of which were spent within its travel division.

Meanwhile, current WHSmith Australia Managing Director Carl Hargrave becomes Managing Director of a new Asia Pacific unit.

The development follows the news this month that Toby Keir, the former Managing Director of WHSmith’s UK Travel division – responsible for a 571-store estate covering airports, hospitals and railways – has been appointed the new CEO of InMotion and Marshall Retail Group.

“I leave with an incredibly heavy heart but I am also excited about WHSmith’s future,” McNally told TRBusiness.

“I am handing the bulk of my responsibility to Gavin Wood, a hugely talented and respected operator with many years of travel retail experience. I wish him and WHSmith the very best of luck as we all emerge from the pandemic.”

While expressing his sadness at McNally’s departure, Wood said he was ‘delighted’ by the new opportunity for the business.

“Phil has been brilliant to work with over the past three years,” he explained. “Personally, he has been a real role model and has taught me a lot in the last three years. He has made a significant impact on the business and I wish him a lot of luck.

“It’s a really exciting time for the industry but also WHSmith in a post-Covid world. As the business recovers there is lots of opportunity across the world for us to grow the business and the InMotion brand and to bring the two together.”

Gavin Wood takes on the role of Managing Director Europe, Middle East and India.


As reported within an in-depth interview last year, InMotion has made no secret of its ambitions to scale up the business across the globe.

Recently, the Travel UK business won all 30 technology store concessions across the country’s airports following the demise of Dixons Travel, in part due to the crippling decision to axe tax free airside sales.

The footprint includes eight lots at London Heathrow Airport.

In November, InMotion inaugurated a new hybrid store at London Stansted Airport.

Moving forward, the combined electronics/convenience model represents an attractive proposition for WHSmith to create a one-stop destination for customers at airports and travel hubs.

“The stores allow them to shop consumer electronics, health and beauty and pharmacy items to books, news and convenience,” said Wood. “Bringing all the travel essentials under one roof is a great proposition for the customer.”

Earlier this month, WHSmith released its preliminary results for the 12 months ending 31 August 2021 in which it noted improved trends in the Travel division with total revenue at 84% of October 2019.

More than 100 new stores have been won and plan to open in Travel over the next three years, 58 of which are in North America.

The Group reported a pre-tax loss of £104 million/$142 million for the period, with the Travel business – comprising the UK, North America and Rest of the World – reporting widening trading losses of £39m [2020: £33m] as total Travel revenue dropped 27% year-on-year to £401m.

A 6,000sq ft WHSmith and InMotion combination store opened at London Stansted Airport earlier this month.

Government-imposed travel restrictions in the UK curtailed passenger numbers in the financial year, as the Travel UK business posted a 43% decline in revenue compared with 2020 to reach £195m.

However, 518 of the 571 Travel UK-operated stores were open as of 31 October 2021 and the group expects to unveil an additional 10 to 15 stores each year on average over the next three years.

WHSmith’s global Travel business, which includes Marshall Retail Group and InMotion, operates approximately 1,166 units, 996 of which were open as of 31 October 2021.

Outside of the UK, the Group is present in more than 100 airports and 30 countries with 291 stores in North America, 84 stores in Europe, 98 in the Middle East and India and 122 in Asia Pacific.


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