WH Smith outlet in Hamad International Airport
Travel retailer WH Smith is on track to meet full year expectations / Image source: Adobe
  • Strong UK travel demand boosts revenues
  • On track to open 110 new stores in 2024
  • High street like-for-like sales drop 3%

Retailer WH Smith (SMWH) said brisk trading at railway stations and airports helped boost group travel revenues by 16% in constant currencies for the 20 week period to 20 January 2024.

Overall revenues grew 8% on a reported basis and 9% in constant currencies. While the company said it expected another year of ‘significant’ growth, investors embraced the ‘better to travel than arrive’ maxim and marked the shares down 2% to £12.05.

Shares in the cash-generative retailer are down 23% over the last year compared with a 3% drop in the mid-cap FTSE 250 index.

WH Smith said it is on track to open 15 UK stores this year across Air, Hospitals and Rail and maintain that rate into the medium-term.

US travel revenues grew 14% in the 20 weeks at constant currency compared with last year and the company is on track to open 50 stores in the financial year to the end of August 2024.


Chief executive Carl Cowling commented: ‘Our Travel business is growing strongly across all our divisions, and we have seen a notably strong performance in the UK, our largest division, with total revenue up 15% and like-for-like revenue up 14%.

‘We continue to make excellent progress in North America, and I am particularly excited by the substantial growth opportunities that exist in this market.

‘In total, we are on track to open over 110 stores this financial year.’


Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, commented: ‘There are two tasks for WH Smith’s management on a rolling basis – keep the travel stores growing and make sure the UK high street stores remain stable.

‘Its latest trading update shows the retailer has essentially delivered on both counts but it is certainly not a five-star performance.

‘The key area to watch is the pace of revenue growth in the US, which has ground to a halt on a like-for-like basis. That puts more pressure on the group to accelerate new store openings while also getting the tills ringing more often in existing sites.

‘Like-for-like high street revenue in the 20 weeks to 20 January 2024 fell by 3% which isn’t disastrous and is in line with management’s expectations.’

Disclaimer: Financial services company AJ Bell referenced in the article owns Shares magazine. The author of the article (Martin Gamble) and the editor of the article (James Crux) own shares in AJ Bell.


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Issue Date: 26 Jan 2024