WHSmith has reported a growth in sales driven by strong performance by its travel division in the half-year ending February 29, 2024.

WHSmith Birmingham Airport shopfloor

WHSmith CEO Carl Cowling praised the ‘outstanding performance’ of the UK travel division

The retailer posted an 8% increase in total group revenue to £926m in the six months and said it was well-positioned ahead of the peak summer trading period.

In the same period, total travel sales were up 13%, and up 15% and 13% year on year in the UK and North America respectively.

WHSmith’s group profit before tax and non-underlying items improved marginally to £46m, up from £45m reported at the same time last year.

Total travel trading profit improved to £50m, up from £47m in 2023, while high street trading profit fell to £22m from £24m.

Chief executive Carl Cowling said: “The group is in its strongest ever position as a global travel retailer. We have had a good first half and our businesses are well-positioned for the peak summer trading period. Total travel revenue is up 13%. The board is today announcing an interim dividend of 11.0p reflecting current trading and the significant medium and long-term prospects for our global travel business.

“Our travel divisions are trading well and I am particularly pleased with the outstanding performance of our UK travel business, which has seen a 19% increase in trading profit. We continue to make excellent progress in this division, growing our space and broadening our categories as we transition to a one-stop shop for travel essentials.

“In North America, it has been a very active period where we have opened a further 13 stores. We have also now fully integrated InMotion into our core airport business. This will allow us to sell tech accessories more effectively across our North American airport estate and generate operational efficiencies.

“None of this would be possible without the exceptional efforts of the entire team and I am extremely grateful for their ongoing commitment and hard work.

“The second half of the financial year has started well and we are on track to deliver full-year expectations. We are confident that 2024 will be another year of significant progress for the group.”