By Geoff Percival
Sales at WH Smith’s travel division — which includes its numerous Irish shops at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports — grew by 8% in the three months to the start of June, the UK book and stationery retailer’s third quarter.
The company’s share price jumped by over 6% on the back of a strong trading update, which also showed total group sales growth of 4% and improvement in its high-street shop network, making the company one of the stand-out performers on the FTSE.
“High Street total sales and like-for-like...is a great performance in the context of a very challenging environment and will surprise,” said Investec analysts.
“Whilst there is some uncertainty in the broader economic environment, WH Smith serves millions of customers each week and continues to grow both internationally and in the UK,” said chief executive Stephen Clark.
“We continue to focus on profitable growth, cash generation and investing in the business to position us well for the future. We remain confident in the outcome for the full year,” he said.
The company made no comment on its plans for Ireland, but is due to open eight new stores at Madrid Airport this summer - bringing its international store numbers to 282 - and plans to open 15-20 UK shops before the end of the year.
Recently filed accounts for WH Smith’s Irish operations showed a 120% surge in pre-tax profit - to €2.45m - for the 12 months to the end of August.
Irish revenues for the year rose by 7% to €28.8m, with staff numbers here rising from 150 to 163.
The business paid its UK parent a dividend of €2.5m in October 2016.