WHSmith rethinking strategy

WHSmith is embarking on an ambitious project, trialling standalone stationery stores in an effort to stem dwindling consumer spending and reverse a 4 percent drop in 2006 stationery sales.

Group executive Kate Swann said: "In stores where we have excess space we are testing new ranges that complement our existing stationery offer. For example, we have introduced new ranges for the home office and new art and craft materials for all the family. We will roll out successful elements of these trials once we are satisfied they deliver the return on investment we require."


The first of WHSmith’s four trial stores opened in Barnet, London earlier this year and according to store insiders, the store has proved a huge success.


When the company announced its preliminary results for the six months ended 28 February 2006, it said that: "Our stationery trial store in Barnet performed well in the period and we will incorporate the findings into some of our standard stores. We will also expand the amount of space we dedicate to stationery and introduce new ranges through the summer period."


Sarah Heath, WHSmith’s head of communications and social responsibility, told OPI: "The purpose of the trial was to take lessons learnt across to our main chain. And that’s what we’ve been doing.


According to Heath: "Lessons learned have included bigger and more prominent seasonal promotional areas being located in the front of the store."


While the retailer is trialling the standalone stores, it has said that it plans to gradually de-emphasise its entertainment offering as it implements the separation of its retail and news distribution businesses to increase focus on the respective divisions.


According to reports, the retailer is expected to expand its chain of out-of-town stores to over 100 if a trial in Glasgow proves successful.


As part of the company’s commitment to gradually de-emphasise its entertainment offering, it is thought that more space will be given to books and stationery within the new outlets.


WHSmith has also announced plans to open nearly 50 new shops in motorway services.


For the full story, see UK retail giant launches ambitious plan in December’s issue of OPI magazine