WHSmith chiefs to meet Labour MP Paula Sherriff after it was revealed retailer charged more in hospitals than on the high-street

'I’m keen to hear their views on why they feel the need to charge vulnerable patients and visitor more than other customers'

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The Independent Online

WHSmith bosses have bowed to pressure and agreed to meet a politician who attacked the retailer’s decision to charge more for products in hospital stores than its high street ones.

Labour MP Paula Sherriff wrote to WHSmith demanding to know why prices are in some cases as much as 90 per cent higher – and will meet with the newsagent’s bosses on September 17.

She also challenged Marks & Spencer to a meeting to explain why some of its prices were also significantly higher in hospital stores. It has yet to respond. Last night Ms Sherriff, an NHS worker of 13 years, said: “I’m pleased WHSmith have agreed to meet with me and are taking this issue seriously. I’m certainly keen to hear their views on why they feel the need to charge vulnerable patients and visitors, many of whom are on low incomes, more than other customers.”

WHSmith insisted it must charge more in hospitals because the rental agreement sees the company hand over a percentage of sales, rather than a fixed rent.

 

Ms Sherriff added: “I hope they will be able to present evidence that shows they must charge more, and explain why Costa Coffee can have hospital sites and charge the same as high street stores.”

Earlier this week The Independent found a 750ml bottle of Evian in WHSmith’s St Thomas’s Hospital, Westminster store was £1.69 – 22 per cent more than a nearby high street store.

A WHSmith spokesman said: “Occupation costs in our hospital locations can be up to 40 per cent of sales, materially higher than the fixed margins we make on newspapers and magazines.”

M&S said hospital prices could be higher due to “increased running costs”.

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