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To wonder what WH Smith's secret is...

(312 Posts)
HeadsDownThumbsUpEveryone Thu 11-Oct-18 09:24:36

So news this morning suggests that WH Smith are struggling again and have reported losses and a plan to overhaul their stores. As part of this review they have announced they are closing 6 of their stores (they still have 610 stores on the high street and 839 travel outlets in airports, train stations etc).

Am I the only one amazed that they are only closing 6 stores. I cannot think of a single thing they sell that cannot be purchased elsewhere for less. Whilst it is horrible news for those employed at these stores, how on earth are they still operating? Other than merging some post offices into some of their stores what key service do they provide to make them such a viable business? What is the secret to their survival when so many bigger stores have disappeared?

AamdC Thu 11-Oct-18 09:27:44

Yeah i agree there is one in my town its always empty and its merchandise is overpricedd, not helped at all by the fact it has sevetal newsagents nearby and a poundstore next door

Whywonttheyletmeusemyusername Thu 11-Oct-18 09:29:34

I'd never thought of it like that, but you are so right. I love WHS, but they are so expensive its ridiculous. I can spend ages in one, buy a load of stuff I need, but could have got it cheaper on Amazon.

LucieMorningstar Thu 11-Oct-18 09:31:32

I’ve always wondered this about Smiths. Expensive stationary and cards. Magazines etc you can get from any other store. I reckon they must secretly sell an awful lot of Parker pens as they seem to be one of few retailers here that sell them!

mrcharlie Thu 11-Oct-18 09:32:10

Personally I think it survives only because of its major franchise in the airports, having a captive audience and charging exorbitant prices makes them a lot of money I suspect.

BigSandyBalls2015 Thu 11-Oct-18 09:33:32

I'm amazed it's still going, very expensive and ours is very shabby and run down.

Whywonttheyletmeusemyusername Thu 11-Oct-18 09:33:57

Ooh...maybe its people like me keeping it open...idiots who browse and then spend money they don't have, just because we're too impatient to wait for an Amazon delivery grin

bigKiteFlying Thu 11-Oct-18 09:34:25

I assumed the airport, train stations and hospital outlets were bits that made them money - ie where choice is limited.

Does beg the question why they are keeping so many high street shops open - though there are always people in the one in our city though tills aren't often busy.

MissCharleyP Thu 11-Oct-18 09:34:55

I think it’s their stores in train stations/airports that keep them going. If at Euston (for example) there isn’t anywhere else to buy a newspaper/magazine without venturing outside the station and tbf they do usually have the widest range of magazines available. They opened a branch in the station where I used to work, everyone moaned about how expensive it was but for the staff (who only got a 20 minute break), it was often the only viable option.

zukiecat Thu 11-Oct-18 09:36:33

I love WH Smith!

I'd be lost without it, I go into it every single time I'm in town even if I'm not buying anything, just love looking round

PerkingFaintly Thu 11-Oct-18 09:36:48

Isn't it because they own a major book and magazine distribution wholesaler or distributor, and therefore have - or used to have - almost a monopoly behind the scenes?

2beesornot2beesthatisthehoney Thu 11-Oct-18 09:36:50

They probably survive on the number of useless gift tokens given as Xmas presents every year and never used, found under the bed about 3 years later when they have expired.

IncomingCannonFire Thu 11-Oct-18 09:36:55

I went in ours for the first time in about 10years. It was shabby and run down and didn't have any new school starter kit I would expect. I used to love it when I was a kid to buy school stationery and art supplies but there was no Internet shopping back then.
I too am amazed it's still going.

Nothisispatrick Thu 11-Oct-18 09:38:15

I was saying this last night when the apprentice candidates pitched to them. How the hell are they still open? So expensive and everything can be bought somewhere else. It must be the train station/airport thing.

PerkingFaintly Thu 11-Oct-18 09:39:03

I'm very out of date though, so that may now all be water under the bridge.

Bekabeech Thu 11-Oct-18 09:39:08

Their Airport and Train station stores make all the profits.

But actually their High Street stores are still often the only book store in a lot of towns (and even more the only alternative to Waterstones). So they are actually also performing a community service. Admittedly they could often do with downsizing as the stores are too big - but in a couple of local towns they also house the Post Office now.

MissCharleyP Thu 11-Oct-18 09:40:37

PerkingFaintky yes they do, if you own a newsagents then they will be your supplier.

Thumbcat Thu 11-Oct-18 09:41:21

Ours is massive and always empty. The very back of the shop is so deserted and quiet that it's quite eerie.

HeadsDownThumbsUpEveryone Thu 11-Oct-18 09:41:58

I think most of you are right about the travel outlet stores which have a captive audience. However, like a previous poster pointed out surely if that was the case they would close more high street stores?

The magazine selection is good I suppose but I would have thought even that wouldn't be enough especially with the apps where you can get so many magazines for one monthly price?

For those of you who buy there genuine question is it just because you have always shopped in their stores? Do you really not mind paying so much more for an item than you would be able to buy just as easily in another store?

Nellyelora Thu 11-Oct-18 09:43:12

If you are after more specialist/niche magazines it's the only place you can buy them on the High Street.

Our local Smiths is relatively busy but our town centre is pretty rubbish, there isn't really much choice for stationery (only smiggles and paperchase which are £££) or the pound shop. We have a small Waterstones and Smiths always have offers on books. Lots of people still enjoy browsing books before buying or don't like to shop with amazon etc

I expect they make a good profit at airports and train stations especially as prices are hiked up.

astoundedgoat Thu 11-Oct-18 09:43:41

The one in Oxford is absolutely minging. I have no idea how they hang on in there. I definitely want there to be great magazine shops, but all the other stuff they sell can be got better and cheaper elsewhere.

Sowhatifidosnore Thu 11-Oct-18 09:43:43

The travel stores keep it going. No-one will ever beat Amazon, Amazon have a business model that means they are happy to lose money on certain products ( books are a big one) to get everyone to become reliant on them. I work with Amazon and they are utterly ruthless and often demand that suppliers give them discounts that mean the suppliers are losing money - but not all the time. Enough to keep them reliant on Amazon as shops go out of business.
You have a choice - shop there and save a few quid but lose your high street Smiths, Waterstones, Boots, local stationery/ card shop. Or support local business. Smiths are actually pretty competitive on price, but there will always be a 3rd party supplier inn amazon based in the far Eastbwhoncan undercut their price on a set of pens or ink or whatever. Amazon also have a huge issue with fake goods, non genuine ink etc. At least in Smiths you know that the goods are genuine and your cheap ink isn’t actually a dodgy refill job.
Oh and Smiths pay their workers a decent wage. Amazon are a hideous, immoral employer IMHO.

hotcrossbun99 Thu 11-Oct-18 09:44:17

They also have a lot of stores within hospitals and they really are a rip off to their captive audience.

MsJuniper Thu 11-Oct-18 09:45:11

I used to work for a WHS when they had a bit of character and none of those awful banners in the window. In fact they used to award prizes for creative window displays! It does make me sad when I go into one now. Especially the cheap choc offers piled up by the tills. It looks like a discount store but with none of the discounts.

I think they survive through rail/airport franchises and the tie ins with Costa, Post Office etc.

I wish they'd go back to a more traditional appearance / service. I think bizarrely it would give them a fresher image.

TomHardysNextWife Thu 11-Oct-18 09:46:03

It's the locations they have, they have a captive audience.

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