WH Smith

WH Smith is holding an event next week to drum up support for its WH Smith Local franchise.

The high-street retailer has been quietly trialling the smaller-format franchise package since the summer with members of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents.

It said it was “actively looking for new franchisees to be opened over the next six months”. The event is on 9-11 December at The Cumberland Hotel in London.

Shailesh Patel, who runs a WH Smith Local in Clapham, said: “A Sainsbury’s Local had opened right next door and I was 10% down. Converting to WH Smith Local has reversed this and I am now 10% up and making a much better margin.”

Ashwin Patel, who runs a WH Smith Local in Wootton Bassett, added: “I am seeing a big improvement in sales since going the WH Smith Local route with big growth in high-margin areas like stationery.”

WH Smith will be hoping Local can stem its long-term sales decline. While profits increased 6% to £108m in the year to 31 August, group sales fell 5% to £1.18bn, with like-for-likes down 5%. Last month, it revealed sales fell 3% in the 10 weeks to 1 November.