Retailer WH Smith revenue gains on rapid recovery in European summer travel

A person wearing a mask is pictured outside a branch of WH Smith in London

(Reuters) -British retailer WH Smith said on Wednesday a rapid recovery in travel, especially across Europe, has pushed its second-half revenue 'comfortably' ahead of pre-pandemic levels.

The travel industry has seen a surge in demand for summer travel since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in many countries, leading to disruption at airports and longer waiting times for passengers.

WH Smith, which has stores in travel hubs and sells everything from books, sandwiches to Bluetooth headphones, said it has benefited from the rise in passenger numbers despite the disruptions.

It said that the UK and North America markets continue to perform well and it was seeing signs of recovery across all its other markets as well, with Europe gaining momentum most rapidly and Australia and Asia showing notable improvements.

Revenue at its travel business rose 29% in the 26-week period ended Aug. 27, compared with 2019 numbers.

Its highstreet business, however, remained below pre-pandemic numbers at 80% of 2019 levels for the same period, hit by a cyber incident in April affecting its online greeting card business.

WH Smith said it was looking to save costs at its highstreet shops, mainly through rent reductions.

(Reporting by Sinchita Mitra and Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Rashmi Aich)