Taking Stores to Customers
Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire
who may not be familiar with the UK’s WH Smith, the chain stocks a combination
of newspapers, magazines, books, cards and stationery – plus some confectionery
and a few toys. Stores have traditionally been located in town centers
but, more recently, branches have opened in airports, train stations
and hospitals. Latest plans, just announced, are for stores in office
The Guardian reported
chief executive Kate Swann’s conviction that there is potential for 80
such stores, each of approximately 1,000 square feet, carrying some 2,500
lines. These will mostly be confectionery,
stationery and magazines. Plans are based on similar success in 80 hospital
locations. The first office block store has opened in a building in Liverpool
where 2,500 people work.
Smith’s “annual profits, for the year to the end of August, were up eight
percent despite lower sales…with outlets at airports and rail stations
on the brink of making greater profits than the main high street chain,
even though they have just half the turnover and less than 15 percent
of the shop floor space.” In fact, operating profits at the travel division
have reportedly increased by 17 percent despite fewer air passengers.
perhaps because so many other types of off- and online retailer are providing
serious competition, “like-for-like book sales were down four percent” in
spite of increased margins. And fewer computer games and DVDs were sold,
partly because its distributor folded but also because Ms. Swann scaled
down emphasis on what was described as a “highly-competitive, ultra low
stores sell a wide range of newspapers, magazines, stationery, books
and entertainment products. Travel stores focus on a tailored range of
newspapers, magazines, books and confectionery more appropriate to customers
on the move.
For a company
that was created in the early nineteenth century, the early twenty-first
century focus seems to be more on taking appropriate product to customers
where they are likely to be rather than filling shelves and hoping that
they will come.
Will taking stores to places where customers work make them more attractive,
popular and/or profitable? What do you think about WH
Smith’s airport and railroad stores being more profitable than traditional
locations and styles?