Swann defends Penguin deal, BAA says WHS will 'evaluate'

<p>W H Smith chief executive Kate Swann has defended the exclusive travel book deal with Penguin in a letter to the British Guild of Travel Writers (BGTW). Airports operator BAA has also written to the Guild saying that WHS planned to &quot;evalute&quot; the arrangement over the summer and would respond &quot;appropriately&quot;.</p><p>Swann wrote that the deal was in response to a declining travel market and customer feedback that the travel guidebook range was &quot;difficult to shop&quot;. But contrary to what BGTW asserted on its press release, Swann did not call the scheme a &quot;trial&quot;, instead she wrote that the had chain trialled a number of solutions to the dip in the travel market. Swann said: &quot;In these stores, which are generally physically small, we plan to offer a more straightforward, easy to shop range with many more of the lines displayed face out. Feedback from customers during the trial of this approach was very positive.&quot; But she did add: &quot;We will continue to review the market data, customer research and feedback and do our best to adjust our offer accordingly.&quot;</p><p>Airports authority BAA also wrote to the BGTW, saying it had discussed the issues with WHS. Commercial director John Holland Kaye said: &quot;They [WHS] are planning to evaluate customer feedback and sales over the summer period, and if there is detrimental impact . . . they will take the appropriate action.&quot;</p><p>Guild chairman Melissa Shales said she wanted further details on the evaluation process. The Guild had earlier called for a boycott of WHS&#39; stores, and of Penguin, and has reported the deal to the Office of Fair Trading. She said: &quot;The BGTW would like to know exactly how W H Smith and BAA intend to monitor this customer satisfaction about its reduced offer of exclusively Penguin imprint travel guides and look forward to receiving empirically provable results.&quot;<br /><br />Meanwhile, BAA has said that &quot;there is no exclusive agreement&quot; with W H Smith and that the airport stores now run by WHS had been granted on a &quot;concession basis with individual terms and specific contract lengths&quot;. It was widely reported earlier this year that WHS had signed an exclusive arrangement to take over all of BAA&#39;s airport bookshops. At the time BAA said it had entered into a &quot;contract&quot; with W H Smith for the retailer to handle its books business.</p>