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Mary Gahan interviews Richard Handover, CE, WHSmith
"we're committed to the internet"
 real 28k

Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Shops offset web losses at WH Smith
Sir Alex Ferguson with copies of his autobiography
Sir Alex Ferguson: "strong" autobiography
Face-to-face sales shored up profits at bookseller WH Smith, where losses at its internet trading arm have doubled.

WH Smith credited an 8% rise in profits in the year to the end of August on an "excellent performance" from high street stores.

A "strong" autobiography by Sir Alec Ferguson, and novels by Stephen King, Josephine Cox and Rosamunde Pilcher, helped profits rise 40% in the firm's publishing arm.

But losses at the whsmith.co.uk e-tail site rose to 7m from 3m the year before, despite sales rising 55%.

Losses contained

"We have actively sought to contain trading losses," the company's chief executive Richard Handover said.

The firm's internet arm incurred a further 1m costs through developing internet kiosks in 19 stores, and rolling out its Connect2U business-to-business portal.

The portal, which 500 retail outlets have subscribed to since its launch in June, enables newsagents to order supplies online, and will "increase efficiency", says Mr Handover.

WH Smith launched the site in its campaign, backed by supermarket Tesco but opposed by publishers, to reform newspaper and magazine distribution.

"We are committed to restructuring the magazine supply chain in order to increase retailer choice," he said.

Tough times

Overall, profits before tax rose to 148m on sales of 1.5bn.

"This is a very good result in a difficult retail trading environment," Mr Handover said.

While sales of music and videos declined 5% over the year, takings from new-style digital video discs (DVDs) proved strong from February, the firm said.

Despite sales growth of 8%, profits from the firm's 503 US travel stores declined 1m to 12m.

WH Smith shares stood 11.25p up at 380p at midday on Thursday.

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