WH Smith to open seven ‘new look’ stores over next six months

The new look WH Smith trial celebrates its card and stationery heritage.
The new look WH Smith trial celebrates its card and stationery heritage.

This year WH Smith is making great play of marking its 225th anniversary – and part of the stalwart retailer’s celebrations is a radical new store format that places cards and stationery in prime position.

In what must rank as the most significant development by WH Smith’s on the card and stationery front, since the launch of its Funky Pigeon, Cardmarket and Paper & Script stores, debuted in Reading recently. And there is more where this came from, with another six stores earmarked for a transformation with the new look over the next six months.

The brand new retail format, from the world’s oldest retail chain, celebrates WH Smith’s stationery and greeting card heritage.

The new look takes a novel approach to promoting stationery and cards.
The new look takes a novel approach to promoting stationery and cards.

In a video interview with Retail Week journalist Emily Hardy, WHSmith High Street’s business unit director of general merchandise, Rachel Russell, said of the new trial format: “You can see straightaway that we love stationery.”

Reinforcing the importance of greeting cards for WH Smith, Rachel said: “Cards is one of our big areas; we have a very strong range of cards.” Adding that it has introduced new navigational PoS to make it easier to shop the card racks.

Rachel Russell, WHSmith High Street’s business unit director of general merchandise, explained all about the new trial in a video filmed by Retail Week publication.
Rachel Russell, WHSmith High Street’s business unit director of general merchandise, explained all about the new trial in a video filmed by Retail Week publication.

Sharing her personal wish which the new open layout and refreshed product selection will help achieve, Rachel told Retail Week: “What I want to do, what is my passion is to give something back for the next 225 years. I want customers who come to buy one of our best selling unicorn pencil cases today to be bringing their grand children here in 40, 50, 60 years time.”

This latest development follows how WH Smith has been bigging up on the boldness front recently, as evidenced by its ‘Designed in the Britain’ display concepts in its stores in Harriods and flagship store in Victoria, which contributed to it winning a Retas award for Best Non-Specialist Multiple Retailer of Greeting Cards in July.

Greeting card racks Point of Sale marks the 225th anniversary of WH Smith.
Greeting card racks Point of Sale marks the 225th anniversary of WH Smith.

WH Smith’s recently announced premimary results for the year (to 31 August 2017) showed how its travel side of the business has, for the first time, eclipsed its high street strand, in both sales and profit.

Its Travel business, which now the largest part of the Group in both revenue and profit, saw sales up by 9% while like for like sales were up 4%.

While trading profit on WH Smith’s high street stores was held on a par with last year’s figure (£62 million), turnover dipped by 5% and like for like sales were down by 4%.

WH Smith’s product development keeps an eye on social media activity.
WH Smith’s product development keeps an eye on social media activity.

WH Smith treats greeting cards as part of its stationery offering on the financial report front. In his official report, Stephen Clarke, WH Smith’s group chief executive praised the performance of the category. Reaffirming commitment to cards and stationery, he said: “Our strategy to build on our market leading position in stationery remains unchanged… Stationery remains an attractive category for us with good economics and growth potential.”

While WHS’ stationery revenue was up 3% like for like, Stephen admits that gross margin was slightly lower than last year.

Some of the calendars on sale in the new look Reading store.
Some of the calendars on sale in the new look Reading store.

He highlighted how cards and stationery have benefitted from additional space towards the front of store as well as range improvements. “This additional space, combined with our range development initiatives drove good like-for-like revenue growth over the Christmas period (in categories such as calendars, single Christmas cards, wrap, diaries and decorations) and at back to school.”

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