Demise of W H Smith?

Dowdy, tatty, dirty and unloved stores that increasingly resemble a jumble sale, unmotivated staff and not even good value for money. It sounds like the former Woolworths chain but I was actually describing W H Smith.

Commentators have increasingly singled it out as the next potential High Street victim for closure, as shoppers increasingly gravitate towards out of town sites and online. However, I think predictions of its imminent demise are overblown.

The travel concessions (airports and train stations) are really profitable for the chain. And why not? They’re useful for travellers and the lack of competition and impulse buy nature of the sites mean that they can command high prices with healthy margins.

The high street shops have several USPs:

1. Trashy, mass market books. Better coverage than Waterstones and the supermarkets. These impulse buys will not gravitate online.

2. Really comprehensive magazine stocking.

3. Stationery. Unless there is a Rymans nearby, there are few competitors. And people don’t buy stationery online.

4. Cards. Again, Smith’s may be more convenient if there isn’t a Clintons nearby.

5. Toys and games are always useful.

6. Impulse buys like drinks and snacks will always sell.

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