WHS reports "solid" Christmas

WHS reports "solid" Christmas

High street book sales at W H Smith were down by around 2% like-for-like in the weeks leading to Christmas, according to analysts briefed by the company, equating to books outperforming other categories.
 
In its formal Christmas trading statement, out this morning [26th January], W H Smith said it had a 'solid" trading performance over Christmas. Overall like-for-like high street sales at the chain fell by 7% in the eight weeks to 22nd January, with a fall of 6% in like-for-like sales over the 21 week-period.
 
Excluding the entertainment sector, like-for-like sales fell by 3% for the eight and 21 weeks respectively. Retail analysts say the retailer reports that book sales dropped by 2% like-for-like in the 21 weeks to 22nd January 2011, whereas they had fallen by 4% over the festive period last year.
 
The retailer has reportedly focused on selling books, confectionery and stationery recently instead of CDs and other lower margin goods.
 
The trading report indicates that the chain’s trend in falling turnover continues as group total sales sunk by 4% and like-for-like sales were down by 5% over the 21-week period

This compares with 17th January 2010, where Group total sales were down by 2% and like-for-like had dropped by 4% over a 21-week period.
 
The retailer also reported that gross margin improved "ahead of expectations" due to a strategy of tightly managing costs 'to reflect trading conditions."
 
"This performance reflects our strategy to rebalance the mix of our business towards our core categories and the challenging operational environment in the pre-Christmas period," the statement  said.
 
In its travel division, W H Smith overall sales were flat and like-for-like sales were down 3% for the 21 weeks, again with gross margin improving better than anticipated.
 
"Whilst passenger number were inevitably impacted by the weather, we continue to outperform," the retailer said.