Group sales down at WHS

Group sales at W H Smith were down 4% like-for-like in the first 10 weeks of its new financial year in comparison to last year, which is in line with market expectations, the company has said.

In the period from 1st September to 10th November, the W H Smith Travel arm performed better than its High Street branches, with like-for-like sales down 4% in Travel and 5% on the High Street. With the latter, "gross margin has increased in line with our plan and costs continue to be managed tightly."

In Travel, W H Smith said its store-opening plan continued to make "good progress" both in the UK and internationally.

"Whilst the current climate continues to be challenging, we remain a resilient business and are well positioned for continued profitable growth," the company said.

Retail analyst Nick Bubb said: "Given £13m of cost-cutting and overseas expansion for Travel, a continuation of that sort of sales trend over the key Xmas period will still drive no worse than flat High Street operating profits of £54m-£55m in year-ending August, with decent profits growth in Travel to £66m-£67m. C.e.o. Kate Swann steps down next summer, but she will be determined to secure her legacy and leave the business in good shape for the future."