After predictions of doom over Christmas, mixed merchandiser at last has something to smile about
WHSmith board members were breathing a sigh of relief this morning as they announced an improvement in profitability for the beleaguered mixed merchandiser.

Like-for-like sales were down 1 per cent for the 6 weeks to January 15 and down 2 per cent for the 20 weeks to the same date.

However, the retailer said that the high street retail business had improved gross margins by 200 basis points. Consequently, the retailer said, profitability is substantially ahead of the previous year.

The improvement in gross margins was made by reducing unprofitable promotions and securing better buying terms. Product availability was improved compared with last year and markdowns were tightly controlled.

Group chief executive Kate Swann said: 'Customer response to increased product choice, better availability and improved store standards has been positive. This is a long-term recovery programme and much remains to be done. However, we are on track and confident in the outcome for the year.'