WHSmith is running trials in five suburban Local shops to help speed up the customer journey and drive efficiencies.
WHSmith, which reported group pre-tax profit up 3% to £69m in the six months to February 28, is running trials in shops in Wimbledon, Ealing, Purley, Surrey and Headington, Oxford.
WHSmith chief executive Stephen Clarke said: “The trials in these shops offer a much tighter range, and are very focused on news and magazines.”
He explained: “With these shops, customers want to get in and out quickly, so we have three trials to help speed up their trip.”
The trial stores feature contactless payment, self check-outs, or a de-cluttered front of store.
Clarke said the retailer hopes to “roll out a further five to 10 of these trial shops in the second half”.
WHSmith is also trialling a revamped food to go offer in Euston, Liverpool Street, Victoria and Kings Cross.
WHSmith reported travel trading profit up 3% to £30m and high street trading profit up 2% to £49m. Travel total sales were up 2% and like-for-like sales were down 1%. High street total sales were down 7% and like-for-like sales were down 6%.
In line with its plan, WHSmith delivered cost savings in its high street division of £9m in the half, with a further £5m identified for the second half.
Clarke explained the cost savings came from a “whole raft of initiatives” including lease negotiations.
In travel, Clarke said it is “early days” but the retailer has seen “some improvement in UK air passenger traffic”. “It’s variable by airport, it’s up more at the bigger airports and those in the south east in particular, but it’s encouraging,” he said.
In its international division, WHSmith acquired a small cards and gifts franchisor in Australia, called Wild Cards and Gifts. Robert Moorhead, chief financial officer and chief operating officer, said the buy helps the retailer leverage further infrastructure in Australia, develop its wholesaling in the country, and offers another brand to landlords.
Clarke said WHSmith continues to plan cautiously as “there is a disconnect between GDP growth and consumer behaviour” but he added: “We’re definitely in a better position than we were two years ago.”