WH Smith has said that it expects a resumption in the recovery of its travel markets over the coming months, although the retailer added that the firm was experiencing a 'small impact' from the Omicron coronavirus variant.
The company, which sells books, stationery and other items at its stores in travel hubs, said revenue for the 20 weeks to January 15 was 85% of the sales during the corresponding period in 2019.
In November, the group said that expected sales to return to pre-COVID levels this year.
Prolonged Store Closures
Most retailers including WH Smith that have a large physical store count are navigating turbulent times, as shops had to be shut for prolonged periods due to coronavirus lockdowns, while fresh travel restrictions in the wake of a surge in COVID-19 cases put further pressure on these companies.
“We are pleased with the progress the Group has made in the period," group chief executive officer Carl Cowling said in a statement, adding that the company's high street and online businesses had performed well.
Revenues from Travel UK and overall North America for the period stood at 70% and 92%, respectively, of pre-pandemic levels.
Group revenue had touched 90% of 2019 levels in November before falling to 87% in December as the spread of the Omicron variant returned to haunt retailers.
WH Smith said it had opened 16 of the 30 stores InMotion technology stores at UK airports and planned to open the remaining ones, including further stores at London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports, prior to the peak trading period over the summer months.
“Looking ahead, although we are seeing a small impact from the Omicron variant, we anticipate a resumption in the recovery of our Travel markets over the coming months," Cowling added. "We are well placed for the key trading period in Travel this summer and the ongoing recovery in our markets.”