• Travel like-for-likes up 5%
  • High street like-for-likes down 3%
  • Full-year profits expected to be higher than previously estimated

WHSmith’s Christmas trading was buoyed by its travel division, but sales at its high street stores fell.

Boss Steve Clarke said that on the back of strong trading in travel, full-year group profits were expected to be higher than previously expected.

Travel sales rose 5% on a like-for-like basis and 10% overall in the 21 weeks to January 21.

On the high street, like-for-likes fell 3% and total sales dropped 4% over the same period.

Group like-for-likes rose 1%, while total sales increased 2%.

WHSmith said the results reflected “successful ranges and strong promotions in our seasonal stationery categories and good sales of spoof humour books”, such as Five on Brexit Island, The Grandparents and The Cat.

Gross margin was up year-on-year, and this reveals its cost efficiency programme remains on track.

Clarke said: “In travel, we have delivered good sales growth across all our key channels in the period. This was driven by ongoing investment in the business and continued growth in passenger numbers, particularly in our airport stores over the Christmas holiday period.

“In high street, we saw another good performance with sales in line with expectations driven by our new seasonal stationery ranges and spoof humour books.

“As a result of the performance in travel we expect group profit growth for the year to be slightly ahead of plan.

“While there is some uncertainty in the broader economic environment, we remain confident that the group is well positioned for the year ahead as we continue to focus on profitable growth, cash generation and investing in new opportunities.”

The retailer has also agreed a new five-year revolving credit facility for £140m working capital. It is provided equally by the group’s four relationship banks, Barclays, BNP Paribas, HSBC and Santander.