There is no denying the impact that the media-shy Kate Swann has had on what was once a beleaguered general merchandiser. She cuts costs like her life depends on it as, of course, the life of WHSmith did when she came in.

Swann deserves praise for her turnaround skills and in the past 12 months has continued to impress. She has made the most of its star performer - the travel arm - cornering the airport market by winning several contracts with airport operator BAA to sell books in its airports. WHSmith has also dipped its toe into international markets like Copenhagen via its airports.

In the six months to February 28, profit from its travel division rocketed 18 per cent to £20m, although overall group pre-tax profit fell 5 per cent to £61m.
People love to talk about where she might go next, but the elusive and no-nonsense Swann will not deviate from her path of revitalising WHSmith by entertaining such discussions.

At least not just yet, anyway.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that WHSmith has signed an exclusivity agreement to sell books in BAA’s airports. While it has won several contracts with the airport operator in recent months, each was tendered for separately.

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