WH Smith expected to benefit from summer reading surge

 

WH Smith is expected to benefit from growing hordes of shoppers grabbing paperbacks en route to summer jaunts.

The shares rose 5p to 1098.5p as the books and stationery retailer posted a slowdown in its falling High Street sales, which had previously been plunging.

WH Smith has long been battling dwindling sales as customers desert the high street and purchase books online. It has countered the trend by cutting costs.

The 4 per cent fall in high street sales, while better than expected, was against weaker numbers last year distorted by customers buying the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy earlier in the year. The sex-and-spanking series of books is to be turned into a movie starring Dakota Johnson.

Investec analyst Kate Calvert said: “WH Smith has read the market well and moved into and out of the right categories. In many towns in the UK there’s nowhere you can pop into to buy a gift.”

Calvert said WH Smith had benefited from the collapse of Woolworths in 2008, closing independents and the downsizing of toy stores. She added that an anticipated rise in air and rail passenger numbers as the economy improves is likely to benefit the retailer, which will open 30 UK and 30 international shops this year.

WH Smith said sales have been strong for a number of titles going into the summer including Khaled Hosseini's And the Mountains Echoed, Robert HArris' An Officer and a Spy and John Green's The Fault in Our Stars.

It has also secured £93.3 million of working capital after a deal with four major banks.

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