WH Smith is on the hunt for more former Woolworths stores and claims its sales have  been boosted by the closure of the variety retailer.

Chief executive Kate Swann said the newsagent and bookseller had opened two stores that previously belonged to Woolworths and would look at other former Woolies sites as it aimed to open four new shops by August.

“Part of our strategy for a while [has been] to open where we don’t have a shop and we are very happy to look at the Woolworths shops where that makes sense,” she said.

The demise of Woolworths had resulted in a small improvement on WH Smiths’ sales of lottery tickets, she said, while there had also been an uptick in sales of toys and games. But she said the group would not be able to judge the full Woolies effect until the big increase in stationery sales in the ‘back to school’ and Christmas periods.

Swann said it was a “coincidence” that WH Smith timed a planned increase in the pick-and-mix counters in its stores from 80 to 200 with the disappearance of Woolies.

WH Smith will also add 46 outlets this year in its travel business, which has units in airports, stations and hospitals. The expansion will add between 500 and 1,000 jobs when added to the growth of its high street business.

The comments come after WH Smith reported a fall in pre-tax profit from £64m to £61m in the six months to February 28,  Ms Swann attributed the decline to less interest income after the group returned £90m to shareholders.