Adult colouring books spurred WH Smith to achieve a 2% like-for-like boost in Christmas sales, pushing the company’s profit growth for the year “slightly ahead of plan”.
The company has released its Christmas trading update today (20th January), revealing that group like-for-like sales grew 2% year-on-year for the 20 weeks to 16th January 2016, while total sales were up 4%.
Stephen Clarke, group c.e.o, said that a strong sales performance in the company’s High Street arm meant “we expect profit growth for the year to be slightly ahead of plan.”
High Street sales were flat on a like-for-like basis and down 1% on a total basis. Sales at the Travel arm performed better, meanwhile, up 5% like-for-like, while total sales were up 12%.
Clarke said: “The group delivered a good performance over the 20 week period. In High Street, we had good like-for-like sales growth over the key Christmas period, driven by the 'colour therapy' phenomenon, our seasonal offer and strong promotions in stationery. In Travel, we continue to benefit from the impact of our growth initiatives and the improvement in passenger numbers.”
He added: "This performance would not be possible without the hard work of all our colleagues across the business and I am grateful for their continued support.”
Profitable growth and cash generation will remain central to the company’s plans “allowing us to invest in new opportunities for the future," Clarke said. He added that the company's international store opening programme in Travel was "on track". Last week, The Bookseller reported that WH Smith had begun opening bookshops targeting affluent book buyers in Travel locations including Heathrow Terminal 5 and Edinburgh Airport.
WH Smith’s robust Christmas trading figures follow other booksellers' successful festive seasons, in a market where book sales were up 9.6% year-on-year in December to £256.4m, according to Nielsen BookScan, representing the best December total in five years.
Blackwell’s Christmas sales were up 3.1% like-for-like, Foyles saw a 4.7% like-for-like hike in Christmas sales, Stanfords sales were up 6% and Dubray Books were up 12.5%. Waterstones, meanwhile, said it saw “modest” single digit like-for-like growth over the festive period, spurred on by the adult Ladybird books written by Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris.