WH Smith’s market share under threat from new entrants

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Following this mornings (Thursday 30th August) release of WH Smith’s pre-close statement,

Zoe Mills, Retail Analyst for GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers her perspective on the company’s results:

“WH Smith continues to lead the UK stationery market but its 10.5% share is being eroded by new, more inspirational specialists, as well as the supermarkets and discounters, and today’s trading statement, short on actual numbers, does little to demonstrate its high street division is likely to regain share anytime soon.

“WH Smith’s pre-close statement released this morning remained reticent on how the books, news and stationery specialist performed on the high street, however, we can assume that ‘performing in line with expectations’ means this division remains in decline while its travel division fairs much better.

“GlobalData’s report ‘The UK Stationery Market 2018-2023’, reveals that
WH Smith’s proposition is in a precarious position, facing a twofold attack. With the mid-market player unable to compete in branded products against the likes of the discounters, B&M, The Works and Home Bargains and unable to appeal with its trend-led designs against new competition from retailers such as Kikki.K, Typo and Smiggle, its market share is slowly shrinking.

“Since 2013, WH Smith’s market share in stationery has fallen 1.8 percentage points to 10.5% in 2018 and this trend will continue unless it improves its high street division.

“While WH Smith has begun to make efforts to improve its shopping experiences, trialling new store formats and developing its stationery ranges, there is much more to do to grow high street store sales – even against poor comparatives. WH Smith needs to highlight these improvements to its lapsed customers as many have turned to its competitors and currently its lack of differentiation means they have no reason to return. Its improvements to the design of its stationery ranges also highlight that its strategy has to go up against the fashion-led specialists and is in part accepting that it is unable to compete with the discounters on price.

“Investment is not only needed in its physical locations to compete with the like of Paperchase, but also with its online proposition which is both visually outdated and cumbersome for customers to use.

“It must make its website more visually engaging, encouraging customers to shop by trend rather than just by product. It should also invest in new product visuals using specialists such as Paperchase, Typo, and Kikki.K for inspiration on how to make its pages more visually appealing, enabling WH Smith to better display the fashionability of some of its own-brand products.”

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