Trading in WH Smith’s UK and US travel divisions exceeded 2019 levels, up to four percent and 11 percent respectively. This follows the return to cities and flying again as lockdown measures eased.
Revenues from its travel unit were up 23 percent, more than compensating for the slower recovery at its high-street stores, where sales were at 79 percent of pre-Covid levels.
Despite a strong performance over the Platinum Jubilee weekend, WH Smith’s high-street division suffered due to a cyber attack on its Funky Pigeon online greeting cards and gifts business.
AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said the fact WH Smith believes its annual results will now be at the higher end of City expectations is surprising given the economic backdrop.
He added: “Most retailers are being very cautious about their outlook, so it’s a welcome turn of events that WH Smith can be upbeat, albeit recognising the uncertain economic outlook.”
Similarly, Whitbread said that its group revenues were running 21.8 percent above pre-Covid levels, thanks to a strong performance from its hotels. This offset a slower recovery at its pubs and restaurants.
It said that Premier Inn’s first-quarter revenues were 31 percent higher in the UK than they were for the same period prior to the global outbreak, while its German hotels were nearly 1,000 percent up.
Whitbread said takings at its food and pubs division, home to Brewers Fayre, steak chain Beefeater and Table Table among others, are still 2.8 percent below where they were in the first quarter of its 2019-20 financial year.
Chief executive Alison Brittain said: “This impressive first-quarter performance, together with improved visibility into the second, gives us increased confidence in delivering a strong first half and remaining ahead of the market for the rest of the year.”