WHSmith announces store closures amid high street retail crisis

WHSmith announces store closures amid high street retail crisis
The retailer has announced it will close six of its stores as part of a business overhaul (Photo: Shutterstock)

High street retailer WHSmith has announced it will close six of its stores as part of a business overhaul, following a disappointing year of sliding profits.

The stationery and books chain has not yet revealed which stores are set to close, but said the move was designed to “better structure the business for the future.”

Falling profits

Along with the store closures, the group – which owns 839 travel outlets and 610 high street stores in the UK – is also planning to “wind down” projects such as WHSmith Local, and Cardmarket – an online trading card gaming marketplace.

The decision for the closures comes after the business saw trading profits in its high street stores fall by three per cent, from £62 million to £60 million for the year to 31 August.

Profits in its high street stores fell by three per cent to £60 million (Photo: Shutterstock)
Profits in its high street stores fell by three per cent to £60 million (Photo: Shutterstock)

Stephen Clarke, group chief executive of WHSmith, said: “We had a good year in high street despite the well-documented challenges of the UK high street.

“During an encouraging second half, the business traded well and we quickly identified the latest trend in the market, becoming a one-stop shop for all slime-related products.”

A change in focus

The group has said it will see a restructure of some of its operational activities and place a renewed focus on its core ranges.

Despite a slump in high street trading, these falls were offset by a seven per cent rise in profits at its travel outlets which rose to £103 million.

Sales also rose by three per cent across its outlets based in airports and train stations.

While high street like-for-like sales did experience a drop, the store credited the “slime” craze with helping to drive an “encouraging” performance in the final six months of the year.

Mr Clarke added, “Despite this good performance, we are not ignoring the broader challenges on the UK high street and, during the second half, we conducted a business review to ensure our high street business is fit for purpose now and for the future.”