Harrogate's WH Smiths open today as British retailer announces some closures likely after profits slump nationally

Harrogate's WH Smith store is trading normally despite today's announcement that one of the most famous names in British retailing is to close 25 of its high street stores.

By Graham Chalmers
Thursday, 12th November 2020, 2:59 pm

In the face of the pandemic and its economic impact, the stationery and newspaper chain has posted a pre-tax loss of £280m in the year to the end of August 2020, compared with a profit of £135m for the same period in 2018-19.

WH Smith's chief executive Carl Cowling said in his statement today, Thursday that “since March, we have been heavily impacted by the Covid pandemic."

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Still trading - Harrogate's WH Smiths at Victoria Shopping Centre in normal times in 2018.

He added that he did not expect the company would be renewing the leases on 25 of its stores across the country in the next 12 months as part of a drive to reduce the global firm's costs.

This, however, depended partly on the negotiations with its landlords on leases set to expire, as well as the Government’s attitude over property rates in the coming months.

The latest figures show the high street business has suffered a 19% fall in total revenue during Covid.

As many as 250 jobs may eventually end up being affected.

It was business as usual today at WH Smith's branch in Victoria Shopping Centre at Cambridge Street which has remained at least partially open since the first days of lockdown in late March.

The Harrogate store moved from its previous location at the junction of Oxford Street and Parliament Street in 1992 when the shopping centre first opened after the demoltion of the town's old market hall.

In May 2019, Harrogate's main Post Office moved into the upper floor of WH Smiths and remains one of the few post offices left anywhere in the town.

The national company currently has 568 stores in total, down from 576 in 2019.

Even during the first lockdown, 203 of these remained open.


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