National savings: Premium bonds hit WH Smith's shelves

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The Independent Online

Premium bonds are to be sold at WH Smith, it emerged last week as National Savings & Investments announced record sales for last year.

From 1 November, leaflets for the popular tax-free savings and investment product will be available alongside those for NS&I's "inflation-proof" savings certificates, in some 400 high-street branches.

They are also being trialled in another 20 WH Smith stores in airports and railway stations.

WH Smith is the third retail partner that NS&I has picked to sell its products; more than a million customers visit the chain every day.

A pilot with Tesco ended earlier this year, with no plans to create a fully fledged commercial relationship.

NS&I will continue its partnership with the Post Office – where you can pick up leaflets for the products on site – but is keen to find new distributors given the planned government programme of post office closures.

"This means we have an additional retail channel to work alongside... the Post Office," said chief executive Jane Platt (pictured).

NS&I announced record annual sales of £14.2bn last week, with sales of premium bonds rising to £8.4bn in the 12 months to March 2007 – up from £7.8bn the year before. Some 27 million people now hold an NS&I product; its direct cash individual savings account (ISA) pays a generous 6.3 per cent.

Part of its success has been put down to a television advertising campaign last year that featured Amstrad boss Sir Alan Sugar, the star of television show 'The Apprentice'.

NS&I is the government-backed savings provider that uses the money from customers to pay down the national debt and lower the cost of government borrowing.

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