WH Smith saw sales drop by 85 per cent as the lockdown forced it to close most of its branches at airports and railway stations.

Revenues at its travel arm – which makes up more than half its annual turnover – fell 91 per cent in April.

Sales at its high street stores fell 74 per cent after many of them were also shut.

WH Smith said it had temporarily closed the vast majority of its 1,194 stores in the travel business, but kept around 130 open in hospitals. It expanded its grocery range in those stores.

The travel arm has been the major driver of growth in the business in recent years, helping offset tough conditions in the high street.

As well as a presence across Britain's travel network, WH Smith also operates in over 100 international airports including those in Bournemouth and Southampton. It has stores in Poole and Bournemouth hospitals.

Carl Cowling, group chief executive of WH Smith, said: "Since March, we have seen a significant impact on our business as a result of Covid-19, with the majority of our stores closed around the world."

He added: "We are a resilient and versatile business and with the operational actions we have taken including managing costs and the new financing arrangements, we are in a strong position to navigate this time of uncertainty and are well positioned to benefit in due course from the normalisation and growth of our key markets."

WH Smith kept 203 of its high street stores with Post Offices open amid the lockdown, but temporarily shut the bulk of the 575-strong chain.

While store sales were devastated, WH Smith noted a jump in online sales, with book sales surging 400 per cent as Britons looked for ways to pass the time at home.