WH Smith

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WH Smith has surpassed its 2019 sales for the first time since the start of the pandemic as the travel division recovery gathers momentum.

Group revenues in the 15 weeks to 11 June were 7% ahead of 2019 levels thanks to “a particularly strong” performance from travel.

Third quarter sales in the travel arm of airport and railway stores raced 23% higher than two years ago, compared with 19% behind in the second quarter.

The UK travel operation nudged 4% ahead in the quarter as the group enhanced its ranges and developed categories, such as health and beauty and technology.

WH Smith reported its performance at UK airports was 14% better than in 2019, while railway stores remained 13% behind.

In North America, the travel arm grew 11% faster than in 2019, while the rest of the world lagged 12% behind, but WH Smith said it was seeing a recovery across all markets, including Asia and Australia.

The group’s high street stores continued to be a drag on growth in the third quarter, with figures still only reaching 79% of 2019 levels, which is lower than the 84% reached in the second quarter.

WH Smith added it benefitted from “a good performance” from its Platinum Jubilee ranges but the third-quarter figures included the impact of the cyber attack on its online card platform Funky Pigeon.

Looking ahead, the retailer was confident the strong performance in the travel division would be maintained across the peak summer trading period, with 125 new stores set to open globally.

As a result, the group guided that its profits for the year would be at the higher end of City expectations.

“While the broader global economy remains uncertain, the group is well positioned to capitalise on the ongoing recovery in our key markets and take advantage of the many opportunities ahead,” WH Smith said in the trading update.

Shares in the company leapt 5.1% to 1,427.6p as markets opened this morning.

Morning update

The FTSE 100 got its head back above water this morning, opening 0.4% higher at 7,218.03pts.

It continues to be quiet on the markets for fmcg stocks, but B&M European Value Retail joined WH Smith as one of the early risers, up 3.8% to 375p so far, while Cranswick jumped 3% to 3,006p following a ‘buy’ upgrade from broker Jefferies.

Nearly all food & drink stocks were up first thing following days in the red, with only Vimto maker Nichols and performance nutrition firm Science in Sport down today, falling 2.5% to 1,175p and 1.4% to 53.3p respectively so far.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 ended the day in negative territory once again, although yesterday’s fall was less severe than previously at -0.3% to 7,187.46pts.

Ocado Group led the fallers, plunging 7.3% to 815.5p, with other tech stocks also deeply in the red, including THG, down 8.3% to 103.2p, Just Eat Takeaway, down 4.2% to 1,489.6p, and Deliveroo, down 3.6% to 81p.

Tobacco giants British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands were among the few risers, up 1.1% to 3,507.5p and 0.9% to 1,801p respectively.

B&M European Value Retail also ended the day 1.5% higher at 361.1p.