Why WHSmith boss Cowling sees ‘big opportunity’ from the pandemic

WHSmith reveals its travel business is booming

After a bruising year for both the high street and travel hubs amid the coronavirus pandemic, WHSmith suffered losses of £69m in the 12 months to August 31, compared with £155m profit last year.

The retailer’s typically outperforming travel division has been hit particularly hard, with sales tumbling 32% on a total basis and 43% on a like-for-like basis at a time when train stations and airports have been operating well below capacity.

WHSmith’s high street stores, meanwhile, have fared more favourably, thanks in part to the fact that all stores containing Post Offices were allowed to remain open during the first lockdown, while almost all its sites can trade as normal under November’s second wave of national government restrictions.

Sales in its high street stores have now climbed to 92% of 2019 levels, while that arm of the business returned to profitability during September and October. 

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