The stationery retailer said the COVID-19 crisis has pushed down the number of customers going into its stores. It is the latest British high street store to fall victim to the pandemic. WHSmith said its restructuring plans will see 1,500 jobs go across the business, with proposals expected to cost the company between £15 million and £19 million.
The company said it needed to reduce costs as its shops in airports and train stations are hit by low passenger numbers and its high street stores also suffer from low footfall.
The company said just over half of its UK travel shops have reopened and that 246 of its largest sites have started trading again.
All of its 575 high-street stores have opened, the business said, but footfall is strongly down compared to last year.
WH Smith could axe 1,500 jobs
WHSmith said the COVID-19 crisis has pushed down the number of customers going into its stores
The retailer said group revenues were down 57 percent in July compared with the same month last year, after its travel arm was particularly badly hit by the pandemic.
It said it now expects to make a loss of between £70 million and £75 million for the year to August.
WHSmith group chief executive Carl Cowling said the recovery from the crisis fallout continued to be “slow”.
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WHSmith said group revenues were down 57 percent
He said: “In our travel business, while we are beginning to see early signs of recovery in some of our markets, the speed of recovery continues to be slow.
“At the same time, while there has been some progress in our high street business, it does continue to be adversely affected by low levels of footfall.
“As a result, we now need to take further action to reduce costs across our businesses.
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“I regret that this will have an impact on a significant number of colleagues whose roles will be affected by these necessary actions, and we will do everything we can to support them at this challenging time.”
Although travel revenue has started to recover from April, when it was down 92 percent on last year, sales were still nearly three-quarters lower in July.
The high street business, meanwhile, has gone from 71 percent down in April to 25 percent down in July compared with the same months in 2019.
The US arm should recover quicker, the company said, as most flyers travel domestically.
Revenue in the travel business there is down 80 percent, but the 147 open stores are seeing an “encouraging performance”.
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The company said its loss before tax is likely to reach between £70 million and £75 million for the year ending August 31. The results will be announced in November.
Mr Cowling added: “Covid-19 continues to have a significant impact on the WH Smith Group.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have responded quickly and taken decisive actions to protect the business, including substantially strengthening our financial position. We have also welcomed support from Government where available.”
It was founded in London in 1792 by Henry Walton Smith.