Retailer WH Smith sees recovery in coming months, flags 'small' Omicron impact

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FILE PHOTO: A company logo is pictured outside a branch of WH Smith in Manchester, northern England.

(Reuters) - WH Smith Plc said on Wednesday it expected 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 Jan. 15 was 85% of the sales during the corresponding period in 2019.

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 well placed for the key trading period in travel

this summer and the ongoing recovery in our markets," 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.

(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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