WHSmith Reinforces Its Commitment To Improve Its Cards And Stationery Selection

WHSmith has reinforced its commitment to greeting cards and stationery within its High Street retail shops. As part of his statement to coincide with the announcement of the group’s preliminary results for the retail group (which covers the 12 months to August 31), group chief executive, Stephen Clarke said that ‘Stationery” of which WHS includes greeting cards as a part, remains a “key area of investment’ for this part of the group. This is reflected in the ‘new look’, which gives greater prominence to cards and stationery being installed in more stores.

The group revenue (which includes its UK High Street and Travel businesses) was up 11%, with like-for-like revenue up 1%.

Once again Travel performed ahead of the High Street, the former being up by 22%, driven, according to Stephen Clarke, by “UK store investment programme and our expanding international business.” Profit for the year, in its Travel side, was up 14%.

Above: Like-for-like sales in WHS’ High Street division dipped by 2%, but cards and stationery remain core.
Above: Like-for-like sales in WHS’ High Street division dipped by 2%, but cards and stationery remain core.

“In our High Street business, we have delivered another good performance,” said Stephen who hands over the reins as group ceo at the end of this month to Carl Cowling. He added that the ‘Back to School’ period saw “good growth across many product categories”, with the High Street turnover and like-for-like sales both dipping by 2%.

In keeping with WHS’ international growth spurt, the retail group has announced its intentions to buy Marshall Retail Group, a US equivalent of WHS travel business.

Once the deal is completed, the number of stores WHSmith has in the US will double. Marshall has 170 stores in North America, 59 of them in airports.

Above: WHSmith’s card buyer Claire Castle and colleague Doug Nelson at the recent GCA centenary AGM and Conference.
Above: WHSmith’s card buyer Claire Castle and colleague Doug Nelson at the recent GCA centenary AGM and Conference.

WHSmith is to pay £400 million for Marshall Retail by raising £155million from shareholders in an underwritten share placing and by taking on more debt.

WHS’ International business is growing fast. As of 31 August 2019, the group was trading from 433 units, across 30 countries and in over 100 airports, internationally, up from 286 units in 2018.

The Marshall Retail deal comes after WHS’ acquisition of InMotion, a digital and travel accessories retailer in US airports that joined the group last November. InMotion operates from 116 stores across 43 airports in the US.

Top: WHSmith’s Travel side saw sales increase by 22% for the 12 months to end of August.

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