WHSmith will not open any more high street stores as it focuses instead on its growing travel arm.

WHSmith store

WHSmith will not open any more high street branches

Travel has been the motor of the WHSmith business for some time and has grown strongly internationally as well as at home.

WHSmith chief executive Carl Cowling told the BBC: “We’ve got a very healthy high street business in the UK. But we’ve got no ambitions to grow that.”

Cowling said that WHSmith will continue to invest in its non-travel estate, flagging as an example the new tie-up with Toys R Us in nine of its branches, but maintained that adding to the high street estate would “just be a duplication” given its extensive presence through 550 high street branches.

He added that WHSmith will invest £120m this year to open shops in the US – the retailer’s biggest growth market – and Europe. 

Cowling said: ”Our ambition is to get to 20% over the course of the next four years and then that will mean probably the best part of 150 stores.

“In the first half of this year, we opened 30 shops in North America and opened another 30 shops in the second half of this year. 

“We’ve got a pipeline of 60 stores to open and we’re constantly winning tenders in airports.”

WHSmith broke into the US in a big way in 2019 when it acquired travel specialist Marshall Retail Group.

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