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WHSmith Had Itself a Dismal Little Christmas

WHSmith revealed that sales at its 540 High Street shops were down 8% in off almost 10% over a 20-week period as it shifted away from high-selling low-margin CDs and DVDs and tried to get back to its core books and stationery sales. The figures were almost twice as bad as the company’s direct competitors such as Woolworths, where sales fell 4.6%, and far worse than HMV, even though the music retailer had issued a profits warning shortly beforehand.

Chief executive Kate Swann put the blame on a competitive period on the High Street. However, she added: ‘We continue to deliver our strategy to improve profitability.’ She said that profit margins were up by three percentage points. ‘Our profit has doubled. Our plan has never been to grow top-line sales, so to say this is a shocker would be very misleading,’ she said. Which is a nice way of spinning really bad news…

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