Cost-cutting at Swindon-based retail group WH Smith helped it lift half-year pre-tax profits by 3% despite falling sales at its traditional high-street stores.
Like-for-like sales across the group fell by 4% to £613m. While sales in its travel outlets at airports and railways stations sales rose by 2% compared to last year, they were down 1% on a like-for-like basis. High street sales were down 7% and 6% lower on a like-for-like basis.
However, trading profit increased 3% to £30m in the travel business as gross margins improved. The high street stores’ trading profits were up 2% to £49m.
As a result, pre-tax profits edged up to £69m from £67m.
Chief executive Stephen Clarke said: “The group has delivered another strong performance, with profit growth in travel and high street, demonstrating the continuing success of our strategy.
“The group remains highly cash generative. During the first half we returned £47m to shareholders through the dividend and share buyback announced in October 2013 and today we have increased the interim dividend by 15%.
“Looking ahead, we will continue to invest in new opportunities that position us well for future growth.”