News

W H Smith to open in 50 new UK sites

W H Smith plans to open 50 stores in specially identified UK catchment areas over the next six years, with a "pragmatic" international expansion programme also planned.

The high street retailer has bought 22 former British Bookshops & Stationers shops and opened eight separate outlets in the past six months. Over the next six months, the company plans to open a further eight stores. From then on, new W H Smith-emblazoned shopfronts are forecast to crop up around the UK at a rate of seven or eight a year, the company revealed.

Stephen Clarke, managing and commercial director of W H Smith High Street, told The Bookseller: "We have identified the opportunity for 50 new high street stores to open in areas we are currently not represented—mainly in small market towns." He gave the example of Pinner, a suburb in the London borough of Harrow, where a WHS branch opened last week.

Clarke was speaking a week after WHS announced its six-monthly results in which the retailer revealed like-for-like book sales had fallen by 3% in a "soft" market.­

However, the group’s pretax profit had increased by 3% to £64m. For the six months to 28th February, the group revealed its total sales had dropped 4% to £686m, with like-for-like sales falling 5%. The company’s high street stores delivered a "resilient" performance over the year, maintaining operating profit at £47m, the same as 2010, with total and like-for-like sales falling 6% to £473m. WHS’ travel sector gave a stronger performance than its high street stores, increasing operating profit by 9% to £25m, "driven by further improvement in gross margin and tight cost control". However, sales were flat at £213m and down 3% on a like-for-like basis.

Non-fiction sales increased and the business benefited from strong fiction and ­children’s books. Gross margin for books was also up year on year.

Clarke said: "Non-fiction was strong this year, off the back of Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals and Guinness World Records, which drove market share. Fiction was competing against Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol the year before and teen fiction from Stephenie Meyer, but post-Christmas, Richard and Judy Book Club titles did well."

WHS also revealed it would open four more international units "shortly" and had secured a further 12 in India and Kuwait, bringing its total international outlets to 40. The company plans to expand internationally every year in a "pragmatic and low-risk way", looking to grow out of its traditional airport locations into railway stations and hospitals.
James Dilks-Hopper, analyst at Numis Securities, said WHS’ UK expansion was a good way to grow the business considering its potentially limited online market. He said: "In terms of what they [WHS] offer, it’s not as if it can be taken online easily. Most Smith’s consumers are the types to pop in and buy a book on their way past rather than go looking online."

Quercus c.e.o. Mark Smith, the publisher responsible for Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, said WHS had "importantly" supported sales with promotions. "Any high street retailer saying they are opening stores is a great thing for the industry, publishers and authors," he said. "The mix of the things it sells really works and obviously it is trying to expand on that, I think it is a great development. It is extremely important we have a means to put our titles in front of customers on a daily basis."

WHS has 581 high street stores and 532 travel units. It employs more than 17,000 people.

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Oh good, the parasite's moving deeper into the country. Replacing family run and indie bookshops with cloned identi-kit stores which mainly sell magazines, sweets and coke. There might be a few recipe books, this years celebrity biographies (from people who haven't really lived a day in their own lives) and the endless shelves of twilight copies concerning a sparkly vampire (and his crime solving chums?, admit it my version has more literary worth).

Excuse me while i go throw up.

I find it impossible to recognise my local branch of WHSmith from your description. It is remarkably like it was before they took it over. It does not seem to have any more celebrity biographies and Twilight derivatives that the other bookshops in town.

At least they are opening branches and providing employment. W H Smith are in the market they are in and do it very well, if they only sell mags, sweets, coke and a few recipe books then the local indie should be unaffected. Waterstones have closed down far more indies than WHS over the years I think you'll find.

I couldn't agree with you more, Daphne. I'm often dumbfounded by the arrogance and snobbery I find withion the comments here. WHS are expanding. Foyles are expanding. Waterstones are shrivelling/dying. This would suggest that 2 of the 3 companies are doing something right, and offering people what they want to buy. It really is that simple.

I think Daphne Tonic water has hit the nail on the head .

It's probably the first time in a long time I've heard anyone try to support Smiths in a debate. Most days if I (at a company that is far more trounced on the bookseller comments than any smiths article) get a customer who can't get a book with us, the idea that Smiths would have it (along with knowledgeable booksellers) almost makes them laugh. Spose someone was going to stand up for them sooner or later. Even I will admit....good magazine selection. And I guess that's why they do well. Hardcore bookselling...nah. But giving the general city wanderer something to quickly read, and nibble on, well that's their forte. The negativity is odd though. They may not be able to face up to the more prominant chains and Indies, but in a way that's never been what they were at heart. So really I think people need to take them for what they are, and as Daphne mentions....employment. It's a bloody tough market is our retail, and if a shop can actually tread carefully through the remains of too many shattered companies and give back hundreds of jobs and help strengthen the high street presence...then kudos I say.

If more people buy books at WH Smith's this side of their business will inevitably grow, and if more people buy books at Waterstones they are more likely to survive. I would like to think there is a place for real high street stores selling print books, as well as online suppliers. It's up to the consumer to decide whether any retail or online outlet survives. Leigh Russell

I tend to agree with the majority of people commenting that WHS must be doing something right in-order to be opening new branches across the country and offering customer what they want.

Surely having companies opening in what would otherwise be empty shop fronts is benefical to the highstreet/economy as a whole.

Over the recent months I have noticed that they (WHS) tend to constantly beat waterstones in terms of value, service and have recently improved ranges of non-bestselling range lines.
I believe the blame should rest on certain big named supermarkets (who shall remain nameless) who are more responsible for putting smaller business in financial trouble.

Then read Dickens?

I'm certainly no literary expert, but is that seriously the best closing insult you can give to a WH fan boy? I guess in my ignorance I'm missing a vital piece of info that makes this somehow scathing.

What the Dickens do you mean?

I liked it. It made me chuckle.

What a nasty, sneery, uneducated little jerk you are eversohumble.

i completely agree, there was no need to be so insulting and in such a manner.

i say well done WHS, its nice to see at least someone doing all right in bookselling/stationary...

Can't be doing that great if they making redundancies maye if they weren't so over priced they would be doing better.

Oh good, the parasite's moving deeper into the country. Replacing family run and indie bookshops with cloned identi-kit stores which mainly sell magazines, sweets and coke. There might be a few recipe books, this years celebrity biographies (from people who haven't really lived a day in their own lives) and the endless shelves of twilight copies concerning a sparkly vampire (and his crime solving chums?, admit it my version has more literary worth).

Excuse me while i go throw up.

I find it impossible to recognise my local branch of WHSmith from your description. It is remarkably like it was before they took it over. It does not seem to have any more celebrity biographies and Twilight derivatives that the other bookshops in town.

At least they are opening branches and providing employment. W H Smith are in the market they are in and do it very well, if they only sell mags, sweets, coke and a few recipe books then the local indie should be unaffected. Waterstones have closed down far more indies than WHS over the years I think you'll find.

I couldn't agree with you more, Daphne. I'm often dumbfounded by the arrogance and snobbery I find withion the comments here. WHS are expanding. Foyles are expanding. Waterstones are shrivelling/dying. This would suggest that 2 of the 3 companies are doing something right, and offering people what they want to buy. It really is that simple.

I think Daphne Tonic water has hit the nail on the head .

It's probably the first time in a long time I've heard anyone try to support Smiths in a debate. Most days if I (at a company that is far more trounced on the bookseller comments than any smiths article) get a customer who can't get a book with us, the idea that Smiths would have it (along with knowledgeable booksellers) almost makes them laugh. Spose someone was going to stand up for them sooner or later. Even I will admit....good magazine selection. And I guess that's why they do well. Hardcore bookselling...nah. But giving the general city wanderer something to quickly read, and nibble on, well that's their forte. The negativity is odd though. They may not be able to face up to the more prominant chains and Indies, but in a way that's never been what they were at heart. So really I think people need to take them for what they are, and as Daphne mentions....employment. It's a bloody tough market is our retail, and if a shop can actually tread carefully through the remains of too many shattered companies and give back hundreds of jobs and help strengthen the high street presence...then kudos I say.

If more people buy books at WH Smith's this side of their business will inevitably grow, and if more people buy books at Waterstones they are more likely to survive. I would like to think there is a place for real high street stores selling print books, as well as online suppliers. It's up to the consumer to decide whether any retail or online outlet survives. Leigh Russell

I tend to agree with the majority of people commenting that WHS must be doing something right in-order to be opening new branches across the country and offering customer what they want.

Surely having companies opening in what would otherwise be empty shop fronts is benefical to the highstreet/economy as a whole.

Over the recent months I have noticed that they (WHS) tend to constantly beat waterstones in terms of value, service and have recently improved ranges of non-bestselling range lines.
I believe the blame should rest on certain big named supermarkets (who shall remain nameless) who are more responsible for putting smaller business in financial trouble.

What a nasty, sneery, uneducated little jerk you are eversohumble.

i completely agree, there was no need to be so insulting and in such a manner.

i say well done WHS, its nice to see at least someone doing all right in bookselling/stationary...

Then read Dickens?

I'm certainly no literary expert, but is that seriously the best closing insult you can give to a WH fan boy? I guess in my ignorance I'm missing a vital piece of info that makes this somehow scathing.

I liked it. It made me chuckle.

What the Dickens do you mean?

Can't be doing that great if they making redundancies maye if they weren't so over priced they would be doing better.