The phenomenal success of Fifty Shades Of Grey and other copycat “passion” books gave a lift to retailer WH Smith today.
The erotic novel has sold more than five million copies, making it the best-selling book in Britain since records began, and WH Smith said its 600 high street stores have seen a boost from the trilogy and a raft of similarly racy books that have proved popular in its wake.
The recent strong line-up of books helped WH Smith's high street stores weather the tough retail conditions in the year to August 31.
WH Smith said its results for the year would be at the top end of City expectations and announced it would return a further £50 million to shareholders.
Its near-600 stores in airports, railway stations and motorway service areas also made good progress, helped by opening stores overseas.
Both divisions have increased their profit margins after benefiting from selling more books and stationery and fewer CDs and DVDs under the leadership of its highly regarded chief executive Kate Swann.
WH Smith shares rose 5 per cent to fresh highs today as investors applauded the bullish update.
The City had previously expected profits within a range of £97 million to £101 million, up from £93 million the previous year.
The group has already returned £377 million to shareholders since mid-2007 as it put in resilient trading performances despite the squeeze on consumer spending, helped by the change in its sales mix.
It has also recently launched its Kobo e-reader to compete with Amazon's Kindle and is expected to give an update on its performance in its full-year results in October.
Shareholders will be keen to learn whether the strong run of books sales has continued into the new year following the success of Fifty Shades Of Grey by EL James.
Its publisher Random House recently said the book had sold 5.3 million copies, including 1.5 million e-books. The trilogy in total has sold more than 12 million copies in the UK.