WH Smith shrugs off high street woes and hands back £36m

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The Independent Online

WH Smith has again cheered investors by delivering growth in margins and an improved sales performance despite the dire trading conditions on the high street.

The stationery and book retailer also said it had returned to shareholders £36m of the £50m share buy-back unveiled last August.

The figures further cement its reliable reputation in the City under Kate Swann, WH Smith's chief executive since 2003. The group's underlying sales fell by 3 per cent in its high street and travel shops, including in airports and train stations, over the 15 weeks to 9 June.

However, this was better than the 5 per cent fall seen in its first half. Boosted by its continued exit from entertainment products as well as more efficient sourcing, WH Smith said that its high street and travel business both managed to grow their gross margins over the 15 weeks.

Total group sales slipped by 1 per cent during the period.