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Retailer WH Smith is struggling to keep up the momentum it enjoyed from the adult colouring book craze, but the new fad for spoof humour books is helping it along.

The stationery retailer and newsagent, a stalwart of the British high street, produced pre-tax profits of £83m in the six months ending in February, up by 4 per cent on the same period a year ago.

Still, overall like-for-like sales were flat, with like-for-like high street sales down 3 per cent, in part because of the sheer scale of the so-called ‘colour therapy’ craze, which peaked last year.

It noted:

In books, the general retail market remains fairly stable, however the quality of publishing is still the biggest driver of market performance. In the half, spoof humour books were a key driver of sales while ‘colour therapy’ sales reduced significantly versus last year. Our approach to the books business is to focus on areas of market growth, build on our relative strengths and drive the overall net profitability of the category.

CEO Stephen Clarke said:

Looking ahead, 2017 is a significant year for us as we celebrate 225 years since the business was founded. And, while there is some uncertainty in the broader economic environment, we will continue to focus on profitable growth, cash generation and investing in the business which positions us well in the current year and into the future.

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