Along with Next, Sports Direct and River Island, stationery retailer WHSmith is said to be urging its landlords to push back rent payment deadlines as a way of easing the financial pressure on its high-street operations.
The Sunday Times reported WHSmith is seeking to ask landlords to switch from receiving payment in advance to in arrears, after its high-street performance over Christmas saw sales drop 5%.
The retailer’s travel business, with outlets in airports, train stations hospitals and service stations, is outperforming its high-street operation. Last month WHSmith revealed its high-street sales were down 5% in the 20 weeks to January 18, while its travel arm saw revenue rise 19%.
In light of the trading results, chief executive Carl Cowling said: “Our high street strategy continues to deliver through continued gross margin gains and tight cost control.”
WHSmith has around 300 leases coming up for renewal, with only a handful of high-street store rents currently being paid in arrears. On leases that were renewed last year, the retailer secured an average rent cut of 35%. If agreed by landlords, the move to adjust rent agreements on its high-street stores will clearly improve the retailer’s cashflow.