News and convenience store retailer WH Smith has seen its Travel division sales flatten out in the 10 weeks to 10 November, while like-for-like sales were down -4%.
On the positive side, the UK-listed company says that gross margin has increased in line with its strategy and that “our store opening plan continues to make good progress both in the UK and internationally”.
Overall, sales for the group during the 10-week period [its fiscal year ends 31 August-Ed] were down -3% with like-for-like sales down -4% compared to the same period last year, affected by a -5% sales decline in the UK High Street.
In the year to August, WH Smith’s Travel division produced sales of £462m (US$ 735m), up +2%, but saw profits rise by +11% to £63m with a strong margin improvement of 160 basis points.
Last month, Group Chief Executive Kate Swann (left) said that the company was “well-positioned for further growth in the UK and internationally” and revealed plans for six new UK airport units for fiscal 2012/13 following five units opened in 2011/12.
Swann – who will step down next June to be replaced by Steve Clarke, Managing Director of the company’s High Street division, from 1 July – said that international units, which now number 101 (either open or won), continue to perform well. Of these 61 are at airports, mostly in the Middle East, India and South-east Asia/Australasia while the rest are in rail, motorway, hospital and workplace locations.
In its interim management statement the company comments: “While the current climate continues to be challenging, we remain a resilient business and are well positioned for continued profitable growth.” The share price trading at over 640p today is well above this year’s 480p low in early June.