WH Smith USA Travel Retail, which depends on world-weary travelers for its profits, is struggling. As if code orange wasn't enough, the specter of SARS is inhibiting travel to Asia and hurting the chain's business, which consists largely of books, magazines and gift sales at its 450 U.S. airport andshops.
Though he won't reveal specific numbers, company spokesman Paul Clipson says the chain's airport sales have taken a substantial dip, but WH Smith remains confident about a rebound. “We've seen major impacts,” he says. “But it's a powerful economy andwill start traveling again.” In fact, WH Smith opened four new stores in Boston's Logan airport in March.
It's the hospitality sector that really has WH Smith hurting. The company is closing 10 percent, or 35, of its hotel locations, in addition to laying off 29 employees at its U.S. headquarters in Atlanta.