Analysis: How WHSmith is preparing for travel retail to take off again

WHSmith airport shop 2

The world’s travel plans have gone awry during the coronavirus pandemic, depriving WHSmith of shoppers in its travel stores, but boss Carl Cowling is confident he can pilot the retailer to a safe landing.

Airport retail is WHSmith’s largest revenue stream. The retailer operates in 29 UK airports and more than 100 internationally, with 280 travel shops in the US alone.

In the six months to February 29, total UK travel revenue at WHSmith, comprising air, hospitals and rail, rose 4% to £271m. Air revenue advanced 3% and 2% on a like-for-like basis.

But since lockdown, the coronavirus pandemic has hit travel hard – and with it travel retail. Some borders have been closed, many flights have been cancelled and, across the world, people have been discouraged from travelling unless absolutely necessary.

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