WHSmith is the UK’s leading specialist multiple newsagent, a category covering books, greeting cards, stationery, newspapers, magazines, confectionary and more.
Founded in 1792 by Henry Walton Smith and his wife Anna as a news vendor in London, the company was the first retail chain in the world. The company took advantage of the railway boom in the mid-1800s by opening newsstands on railway stations and has since expanded internationally through acquisitions and targeting high-traffic-flow locations.
The business now trades through over 1,600 outlets, including nearly 450 overseas stores. Operations are divided into two divisions by location type: high street (where it also operates out of UK post office branches, as well as shops under its Funky Pigeon brand and websites) and travel (railways stations, international airports, hospitals and workplaces).
Driving international travel growth is a current priority, with the US a key focus. Since late 2018, the retailer has doubled the size of its international travel division through the acquisition of US travel stores InMotion and Marshall Retail.
In 1966, during the move to a computerised warehouse, WHSmith originated the nine-digit code for uniquely identifying books, called Standard Book Numbering (SBN). It was then adapted in 1970 to become the universal ISBN system of identifying books.