UK retail newsagency giant WH Smith has purchased the Wild Cards and Gifts business. The former owners of Wild have announced the sale to suppliers and franchisees. I note that WH Smith is yet to publish a statement about this to investors.
It will be interesting to see what happens to the Wild stores. Do they become WH Smith stores and follow the UK model or do they remain as Wild and through them provide the company an opportunity to develop the local card and gift model. Or, do they evolve to something we are yet to see. The Wild statement to suppliers and franchisees says the Wild model will continue:
Their aim is to grow WILD Cards & Gifts in a professional and sustainable way both in Australia and potentially overseas in the future. They have a number of profit improvement programs planned for stores and will deliver these as 2014 unfolds.
Wile I understand the aim as outlined in the statement from Wild,WH Smith is an aggressive and innovative retailer. The company is constantly playing with its models. I say models as WH Smith stores vary in shape, size, product range and retail situation. They are clear in their mission when it comes to retail:
Located in areas that vary in many ways, we are experts at flexing our space and product mix to fit the specific needs of each location. Working closely with our landlords we create new and exciting shopping experiences in both high street and travel locations.
Regardless of what WH Smith ultimately do with the Wild stores, this move will have extraordinary ramifications for key parts of the Australian newsagency and gift channels. Suppliers, landlords and newsagents will (should) all be watching. Like any disruptive move, it is certain to drive others to act.
2014 is shaping up as a year of considerable change in and near the newsagency channel and in this change we can find opportunities.
Any announcement of the purchase of the Wild business would be big. That it has been purchased by a UK company with an extraordinary pedigree in the newsagency and related retail spaces makes it extraordinary. It is the kind of move that does not happen in isolation.
You can see what I have written about WH Smith over the years here.