WHSmith Closes Its Cardmarket Value Stores

WHSmith is pulling the plug on its value card retail concept, Cardmarket, but the retail group has stressed that stationery (which includes greeting cards) “remains an important area of investment” for its High Street stores.

Its like-for-like sales on cards and stationery were up 3% over the last year.

WHSmith opened Cardmarket as a ‘trial’ back in 2014, offering low cost greeting cards and wrap in a minimalist environment. It ran 20 stores under this brand. The retailer has made very little reference to this area of the business in the last few years.

Above: Low value was very much the name of the game at Cardmarket.
Above: Low value was very much the name of the game at Cardmarket.

The retail group confirmed its plans to close Cardmarket as part of its Preliminary Results announcement, which covers the 12 months to the end of August 2018.

“We have delivered a good performance across the Group,” summed up Stephen Clarke, WHS’ group chief executive.

Its travel division, which accounts for half of its sales and thirds of its profit, showed an 8% growth with like-for-like sales up 3%.

Its main High Street stores’ revenue and like-for-like sales were both down by 3%.

“We had a good year in High Street despite the well documented challenges of the UK high street,” says Steve.

He also stressed how stationery (which includes greeting cards) remains an important area for its High Street business, citing the new look trial stores, which elevates the position of stationery as well as the product range, as underlining its commitment to the sector. Stationery and cards now generates 60% of revenue from its High Street division, which traded from 607 stores as at its year end on 31 August.

Above: WHSmith’s Travel stores continue to perform very well.
Above: WHSmith’s Travel stores continue to perform very well.

“The market remains robust, particularly for fashion and seasonal stationery,” believes Steve.

He revealed that additional space given over to stationery, combined with an improved range “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.”

While there was no mention of the retail group’s Funky Pigeon bricks and mortar side, the announcement did refer to Funkypigeon.com, its online personalised greeting card business, which “performed well over the key seasons delivering good revenue and profit growth”.

Total Group revenue was up 2% at £1,262m (2017: £1,234m).

Top: WHSmith is shutting all 20 of its Cardmarket stores.


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