WH Smith says it plans to open around 100 new travel stores over the next three years.
The group said it was “Well positioned for the recovery in Travel with good growth opportunities”, adding that there were “encouraging signs of recovery in North America”, where over 60 of the new stores will be located.
The news follows last week’s decision by Dixons Carphone to close its Dixons Travel airport business. The electronics retailer has a total of 35 airport stores, including eight at Heathrow, four at Gatwick, and three at Manchester.
Announcing its interim results for the six months to the end of February 2021, WH Smith said that it had seen a “profitable performance from High Street [stores]”, and a “strong online performance, including a record performance from [subsidiary] funkypigeon.com”.
The group added that it had finished March “ahead of plan”, with cash on deposit of £50m and undrawn facilities of £200m.
Last summer WH Smith unveiled a new flagship store at Heathrow T2, featuring an in-house pharmacy in partnership with Well.
Commenting on the news Carl Cowling, group chief executive, said:
“Thanks to the outstanding work of all our colleagues across the business, the Group has adapted well to the evolving trading environment and we are in a strong position as our markets begin to recover.
“In Travel, while many of our stores have remained closed, it is a credit to the team that we have kept up the momentum, focusing on our plan to increase average transaction value and spend per passenger while continuing to win new business. As a result, we are now operationally stronger than prior to the pandemic.
“We continue to see encouraging signs of recovery in North America and we are delighted to have won some significant tenders in the US during the period.
“We have a strong pipeline of new store openings with c.100 stores already won and due to open in Travel over the next three years, the majority of these in North America. We are an important retail partner for our travel landlords and we are well positioned to take advantage of further space opportunities that will arise over the coming months.
“In a difficult retail environment, our High Street business has generated a resilient performance. At the same time, we are pleased that our online businesses, including funkypigeon.com, have delivered a record performance.
“We have positioned the Group well. We are financially strong as a result of the actions we have taken, and the new financing arrangements also announced today will put us in an even stronger position to capitalise on the growth of our key markets and take advantage of the many exciting opportunities ahead.”