W H Smith Shows How It’s Done

W H Smith has been on the British high street since 1792. That’s when Henry Walton Smith and his wife Anna opened a ‘news vendor’ in Little Grosvenor Street in London.

But a walk down most high streets today will show how tough it is for British retailers to stay in business there. So we say a rousing ‘well done’ to the company, which has managed to offset the decline in takings from its high street shops by posting significant (seven percent) growth from its travel outlets.

In fact, according to its recently released financial results, its travel locations now account for nearly two-thirds of the group’s profit.

Any passenger queuing in their airport shops, including the two enormous ones just opened at Gatwick and Stanstead Airports, will vouch for how busy – and popular – they are. It’s also intriguing to see what people are buying as most passengers are either going to read a lot of books and magazines whilst on holiday or eat a lot of chocolate. Either way, it’s all sales for the company.

Henry Walton Smith would be amazed to learn that the company now has 249 stores outside the UK as well, including two retail units in Singapore Changi Airport, where, mirroring that airport’s monumental growth, the company plans to open a further eight units in the spring. It seems that we Brits are not the only travelers with sweet teeth.


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