Shares in FTSE 250 newsagent WH Smith (LON:SMWH) climbed 9.81% to 1,707.57p (as of 15:30 GMT) after the firm reported that revenues for the 20 weeks to 16th January were 59% of their 2019 levels. However, December was a relatively strong month with sales at 92% of the comparable month despite steep reductions in footfall.
CEO Carl Cowling commented: “Covid-19 continues to have a significant impact on the WH Smith Group, however w e are pleased with our performance over the Christmas period which was better than anticipated.
“[…] In our High Street business, we worked hard to navigate our way through the evolving Covid restrictions as we approached the Christmas trading period. This positioned us well, resulting in a better than expected Christmas with sales in December at 92% of 2019 levels. Our online businesses continued to deliver significant year on year growth in the period.
“In our Travel business, we saw little change in the environment prior to the current lockdown, as expected, with sales in December at 36% of 2019 levels. We remain focused on average transaction values which continue to grow, cost control, and operational efficiencies and I am pleased with the progress we are making, particularly given the backdrop of significantly reduced passenger numbers. In North America, we have seen a quicker recovery versus the rest of the world, given the higher volume of domestic travel.
“We generated cash during November and December and ended December with a stronger cash position than anticipated with liquidity of £90m, which is materially ahead of our original plan.
“[…] We remain well placed to navigate our way through this ongoing period of uncertainty and benefit from the recovery of our key markets in due course.”