• Pre-tax profits up 4% to £83m
  • Like-for-like high street sales down 3%
  • Travel like-for-likes up 5%
  • Total sales up 2%, flat like-for-likes

WHSmith’s travel division was once again the star performer for the retailer in its half-year, but sales fell at its high street business.

The high street retailer, which turns 225 years old this year, unveiled a 4% increase in group pre-tax profit to £83m.

Profits at it travel division soared 11% to £39m in the six months February 28.

Total sales at its travel arm were also up 10%, and 5% on a like-for-like basis, following a growth in passenger numbers during the period and continued investment.

The retailer’s high street trading profit came in flat at £53m. Total sales at its 613 high street stores fell 4% and same-store sales dropped 3%.

The retailer said this was “in line with expectations” given the strong performance– driven by last year’s adult colouring book craze – it is up against.

Across the group, sales were up 2% to £643m, with flat like-for-likes.

During the period, the retailer extended its stationery ranges, giving the category more space towards the front of its stores, and installed further post office concessions, taking its total to 162.

The retailer said: “These new post offices further cement our position in the heart of the communities in which we operate. Looking ahead, we will continue to manage space in this way.”

In its growing travel business, the retailer now has 255 international stores, including 10 in Singapore following a significant tender win in Changi Airport during the period.

Its travel operations consist of 768 stores across 25 countries.

WHSmith chief executive Stephen Clarke said: “Looking ahead, 2017 is a significant year for us as we celebrate 225 years since the business was founded.

“And, while there is some uncertainty in the broader economic environment, we will continue to focus on profitable growth, cash generation and investing in the business which positions us well in the current year and into the future.”