WHSmith has unveiled its latest travel store format: a combined WHSmith and InMotion store at London Stansted Airport.

The store, which spans 6,000 sq ft, combines WHSmith’s core range of news, books and convenience products alongside InMotion’s technology and accessories. 

The new shop in the departure lounge has a wrap-around digital fascia, which can be customised to reflect the store’s latest offerings and promotions.

The technology range includes products such as laptops, wearables and tablets from brands such as Apple, Bose and Samsung. Cables and headphones are already among the store’s bestsellers.

Customers will also have the opportunity to try out devices such as laptops and mobile phones before purchase in dedicated display units, while staff are on hand to advise on products and provide demonstrations of the latest products. 

The InMotion store marks the latest expansion of WHSmith in airports following its successful bids to operate 30 technology stores in 14 UK airports after Currys decided to shut its Dixons travel business. 

The combined WHSmith and InMotion proposition forms a key part of the retailer’s ‘blended essentials’ strategy to provide all passenger product needs in one location.

Managing director of travel Andrew Harrison told Retail Week: “What we’re trying to be is the solutions provider for essentials for customers at airports, rail stations and hospitals.”

The retailer has opened other store formats, including those with a health and wellbeing focus, in Heathrow and Gatwick. It will also open a new format at London’s Euston railway station, which will provide passengers with products from health, beauty and technology categories.

The Stansted opening comes at a time when air passenger numbers are rising following the ongoing easing of travel restrictions worldwide.

Ben Green, retail director at MAG, which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports, told Retail Week that travel provided strong opportunities for retailers, given the strong volume of passengers passing by.

“You’ll get 2,600 people an hour [in Stansted] walking past the front door,” he said.

“In October, for the first time, Manchester and Stansted airports flew over a million passengers. We would be somewhere between 50 to 55% recovered versus 2019 levels.”

That has improved the outlook for retailers in the airport, including WHSmith, which forecast a return to profitability in 2022. The business’ interim results stated that total travel revenue now stands at 84% of October 2019 figures. 

Harrison explained: “From May to October, sales in Stansted have grown tenfold and that’s in part due to passenger numbers recovering. What we’ve seen across all of our stores has been double-digit growth in average transaction value and an increase in penetration.”

He concluded: “Spend from passengers is up a third on two years ago – we are growing share in our airports. Over 30% of people who come through an airport make a purchase in WHSmith.”

  • Don’t miss the best of the week – sign up to receive the Editor’s Choice every Friday