Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

WH Smith buys 18 Dixons Travel stores for its InMotion chain

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

Back in April, we reported that all Dixons Travel branches in UK airports are to close.

The closure was blamed on the ban on tax free airport shopping, which took effect on 1st January 2021. Following the end of the Brexit transition process, the Government had to choose between allowing tax free shopping when travelling to EU countries or banning it entirely. It chose the latter.

WH Smith has now jumped in.

WH Smith buys 18 Dixons Travel stores

It was acquired 18 of the 35 Dixons Travel outlets. This includes the airport stores at London Heathrow, London Stansted, Manchester, London Luton, Birmingham and East Midlands.

The stores will trade under the InMotion brand, which WH Smith acquired a few years ago and which has 117 stores across 43 US airports. InMotion focusses on tech products and accessories and is far more accessories focussed than Dixon Travel.

WH Smith said that it expects the 18 stores to generate sales of £60 million per year once travel returns to its historic levels.

The remaining 17 Dixons Travel stores, which includes some extra UK sites as well as shops in Ireland, Norway and on two P&O cruise ships, are not included.

Comments (52)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • TimM says:

    Dixons lost its appeal when it stopped offering VAT-free prices several years ago. They were never competitive with the lowest discount sources found in an instant on Google shopping.

    WH Smiths (and Boots) do good business because they sell liquids, otherwise banned for the increasingly large proportion of hand luggage only passengers.

    I cannot see InMotion thriving selling over-priced tech accessories to those that forgot to pack them. A tax on forgetfulness changes behaviour.

    • Memesweeper says:

      InMotion does OK in the states, where most flights are domestic. I’d assume it could work OK here.

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      Eh? A pair of cheapy headphones being £18 on Amazon but £25 in airport is hardly going to move the dial much on peoples’ forgetfulness when packing?

    • Save East Coast Rewards says:

      It’s been a while since I used Dixons Travel but I tended to use them for Apple Products where they tended to be a few quid cheaper (not the full VAT rate cheaper, but then they had to balance between EU sales where they paid VAT and non-EU where they didn’t) and then Heathrow Rewards points on top, plus it would tip me into the premium tier so I’d get double points on everything else.

      I did fly one year via Black Friday where the Apple products were cheaper elsewhere and they happily price matched. At a guess this was around 2015, did they stop doing this or had you never asked?

      It seems some of the stores in the UK are still open, so if anyone tries a price match request then let me know how you get on.

      For those who missed the announcement, Heathrow Rewards is also back after a long outage (probably due to Heathrow IT staff on furlough) and seems to be working fine now

    • Paul Pogba says:

      Has anyone used Global Blue for VAT refunds on EU shopping since Brexit day? It looks like a trip to Zurich or Geneva could almost pay for itself when I upgrade the iPhone.

      • Oh! Matron says:

        I asked this question a few months ago. The difference in prices (and tax) used to fund trips to Boston! Keep us posted.

  • Lawrence says:

    If the new tech company has the right stock I could see it doing fairly well. I always thought Dixon’s was missing a trick with it’s range of items. I’m not going to buy a new flagship tablet or DSLR at the airport, but I might buy some throwaway headphones, a camera bag or a novelty phone case. The kind of thing I am likely to have forgotten!

    To be honest, I can see a few airport shops going that way once they all reopen fully. Less high ticket items, more last minute pre-trip items.

  • Shamrock says:

    Would love to stay at the 4seasons Hampshire but what’s the accommodation options for someone with 3 kids (1 under 2yrs)? Book two not so cheap rooms I guess…

    • JP-MCO says:

      Just as a heads up FS Hampshire have decided to price gouge this summer and inflated the price of their base category rooms by 100%. Ordinarily a base category room will set you back about £400 during August but this year it’s about £800. When you add into the value calculation that the hard product is at the end of it’s life and a refurbishment is imminent it makes it even less value for money. Food is not good at FS Hampshire either…. Coworth Park & Chewton Glen are much better options.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        They’ve just finished a refurbishment of the rooms? Rob reckons they didn’t do the bathrooms though.

        • JP-MCO says:

          No they haven’t – it’s a ‘preview’ at this stage. The rooms are still exactly the same.

          • Rob says:

            Some room blocks must be done because there were closed last Autumn when we were there. They already had dummy refurbed rooms done 18 months ago.

          • DaveL says:

            I was there last month. We stayed in two refurbished rooms (in fact, I think we were the first to stay in one of the new rooms..a few tell tales signs like no battery in the safe) . And there was refurbishment of other rooms still going on while we were there.

            The changes weren’t mind blowing – fresh lick of paint, new carpet, new tellys…overall brighter and more modern though. Changes more noticeable in the corridors

        • Rob says:

          Website stills shows old rooms.

          What is odd is that, as you say, prices are doubled to £775 per night minimum but they then throw you £200 ….

          • JP-MCO says:

            That means that only part of the room inventory is refurbished. There is no way you would complete a multi-million pound refurbishment, double the room rate but use the pictures from the old rooms. They’re using old pictures to avoid being accused of mis-selling when they allocate you an old room, for £800 a night. Go to Coworth Park instead, AMEX offer or not. FS Ten Trinity is a much better value proposition that Hampshire at the moment.

      • JDB says:

        Yes, Coworth Park a distinctly superior proposition with superb food, but not sure how small child friendly.

        • JP-MCO says:

          We’ve been staying at Coworth Park with both our daughters since they were 4 months old. They’re super child friendly! It’s a wonderful place for children.

      • Rob says:

        It is a really nice place, you just need to be ambivalent about £3,000 if you want a weekend there this year. Which, to be fair, more than enough people in the South East are to fill it.

        The Sunday Times today features a 3-bed cottage in Suffolk listed at £107,000 for a weeks rental this Summer, as well as a small place in St Ives at £71,000 per week.

    • Rob says:

      You need one of the cheaper suites (but higher then FS Exec Suite) which can take 2xrollaways and presumably a cot in the bedroom.

  • Lady London says:

    Why did the govt choose to ban duty free for travellers to Europe? This could have been at least one advantage of Brexit.

    It seems we got all the bad bits of Brexit but the government did not arrange any mitigation. Even threw away this advantage. I don’t understand. What am I missing?

    • ChrisC says:

      Rob wrote about it last September when it was announced

      “To make it easier for stores to price goods, they have generally set a blended price. A jumper which would be £100 if taken into the EU or (£100/6×5) £83.33 if taken outside the EU is sold for £90ish to everyone. If the customer is travelling to the EU, the shop quietly pays the VAT for them

      “The Government was unhappy that customers travelling outside the EU were not getting the full benefit of the VAT saving. The saving has therefore been abolished.”

      They also got rid of the ability of tourists to reclaim VAT as well.

      • Save East Coast Rewards says:

        But that’s nonsense. The government may say they’re unhappy but it’s been going on for years (1992?). If they’d left the rules as-is then from Brexit day the EU would have also been automatically allowed to purchase tax and duty free items in the UK and also reclaim VAT. This could have been great news for the retailers as a larger percentage of passengers (100% of those using T3 and T4 when they reopen) would have been eligible for duty and tax free transactions.

        It seems the government kept the ‘cheap booze and fags’ aspect of duty free which would have upset many of his supporters if he got rid of, but scrapped the benefits for the higher end retail.

    • ChrisBCN says:

      But why should people shopping in an airport pay less tax than those shopping on a high street?

      • Paul Pogba says:

        because some of the goods purchased in the airport will be exported and people in an airport are leaving the country any way and can buy VAT free goods in Europe so why not have the people involved employed in the UK?

  • Ian says:

    Four Seasons not on any of our 6 cards

  • alex says:

    I don’t normally get these offers but I stay in London a fair bit and got the Corinthia offer whilst staying the hotel and I also booked thru FHR FS Park lane for next wkd and now have the £200 voucher to use. I don’t normally get too many useful offers but within 6 six weeks of paying my card fee I have saved just short of £500 already, not bad going!

  • Simon Schus says:

    Hi all,

    If anybody is interested, there is a WH Smith opening at DCA (Washington Ronald Reagan National Airport) just by Washington DC. Its not open yet but the “coming soon” signage is all up in a shiny new part of Terminal C. I was very surprised to see it, and took photos!

  • David says:

    Don’t really see that working out for WHSmith.

    The old version of Dixons Travel sold loads of the type of accessories people forgot – if they couldn’t make it work I doubt anyone can. Simply expanding the range of headphones and chargers by 5 won’t increase sales by 5.

    For the items that fall under the ‘crap, I forgot, let’s just buy a temporary replacement, I don’t care what it is’ most of those things have been heavily standardised (Bluetooth headphones/microSD cards/microUSB phone chargers) so why not just put them in vending machines.

    If we’re thinking longer-term and extropolating current trends, I reckon it might be possible in a few years that if you forgot something you could simply load up Amazon and get it delivered to your hotel (or a locker in the place where you are going) the next day.

    • Save East Coast Rewards says:

      “If we’re thinking longer-term and extropolating current trends, I reckon it might be possible in a few years that if you forgot something you could simply load up Amazon and get it delivered to your hotel (or a locker in the place where you are going) the next day”

      Depending where you’re going that’s possible now. But when you could get Dixons to price match, get it immediately and get Heathrow Rewards points on top of that I found it quite useful.
      It’s one of the few shops at LHR I found useful, the other being the landside M&S when I lived in London as it meant I could stock up on food for home before leaving the airport.

    • Bagoly says:

      Apparently at Gatwick a few years ago, the airport management insisted that WH Smith decreased the prominence of that branding (to something like NEWSSTAND by WH Smith) because they thought WHS was a tarnished brand.
      But Doha has a prominent one too.

    • Bagoly says:

      If one is going to much of the USA, Amazon is already there, and in some places “in X hours”, rather than “next day”.

    • ChrisBCN says:

      So a company that has 117 similar stores already decides to replicate the model, yet you think you know better than them about whether it will work or not? Come on!

      • David says:

        Odd reasoning.

        Opinions make a market. Thousands of people in institutions are paid to have opinions on businesses – both good or bad – despite having never worked in it themselves.

        Let’s have an example: IAG acquire an airline; Rob here doesn’t think it’s a great idea and it won’t end well. I’m sure there must have been some strategic development he hasn’t agreed with.

        If I was to say to Rob ‘IAG have run several airlines now and are doing it again, why do you think you should know better than them whether it’s going to work or not?’ that seems a bit stupid.

        The alternative is to simply respect that everyone has an opinion – he may be right, he may also be wrong.

        • ChrisBCN says:

          Sure, companies make mistakes, things can happen that are unforseen, things can go wrong. But, most people here will not know more than the people inside the company, unless you have specific industry/insider knowledge.

        • ChrisBCN says:

          Also, comparing airline economics to that of opening a shop is rather odd…

          • David says:

            I take it you’re making the assumption I don’t have industry knowledge?

            Dixons Travel could easily remake their stores to the Inmotion ones that WHSmiths are planning – they sell the same products, and the Dixons brand is more recognisable here than Inmotion.

            But they have chosen not to. It wouldn’t be that expensive relatively speaking to simply keep trading and inevitably the good times will return – in the same way that WHSmith have booked losses but they are not dumping the business.

            And getting out of the business is not free. It has cost them £100m in impairments (of which £16m is cash) to exit. Yet, that to them is preferable than to sit around for 1-2 years waiting for passengers to return. It’s clear they don’t believe in its future.

            So who is in the right here? Both sets of executives have industry knowledge.

            Like I said, it’s a game of opinions. Rob (and most others on here) have their opinions on whether something is good or bad.

            The topic is irrelevant really; if Rob has a negative opinion on something are we all going ask him why he knows better than the managers of that company? Of course not, because he’s entitled to his opinion.

          • ChrisBCN says:

            I wrote ‘unless you have specific industry/insider knowledge’ which means that clearly I did not make the assumption that you didn’t have industry knowledge. But a company that runs 117 stores will have a decent factual basis on which to project how well additional similar stores will perform.

          • ChrisBCN says:

            And the Dixons brand is trash. Whether it’s more trash than WHS, I’m not sure.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.