Motorway Services Online

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This is one specific branded shop. For service station shops in general, see Shops.

In 1977, Roadchef acknowledged that they couldn't be experts in catering, fuel and retail all at the same time, and said if they could go back and ask WHSmith to run their shop, they would. At the time the idea of franchising was unheard of, but nearly 30 years later it caught on.

Today, almost every motorway service area has a WHSmith Travel store, and these stores form one of the most common interactions between the general public and the WHSmith brand. Travel stores differ from the main WHSmith shops in that they focus less on books and stationery, and more on snacks and travel accessories. By selling coffee and food, WHSmith Travel makes up a majority of a service station's legal requirements, and therefore the shops are often open 24 hours.

WHSmith service station letters.
Novelty lettering for sale at a Roadchef WHSmith.

The exact stock varies depending on the operator running the store. Many are also used to pay for products available in vending machines, such as Costa Express and Krispy Kreme. Some operators have been known to sell scarecrows, wetsuits and garden ornaments, leading to ridicule and confusion from customers. Their stock rarely fits just in the shop unit, and is usually strewn across the main foyer too.

Customers of WHSmith Travel regularly comment on its inflated prices. This is true across the country, but stores at services operated by Moto, Welcome Break or Roadchef are franchises operated by them, and are especially expensive. Stores at other services are operated by WHSmith, with more local souvenirs and slightly lower prices.

WHSmith is often mocked for being a tired and old-fashioned brand, and regularly comes last in customer experience surveys, mostly due to the lack of a niche in their high street stores. The travel stores have been its main growth area and a significant part of its continued success, but the service station stores are also partly responsible for the brand's reputation for outdated furnishings, unusual product ranges and inflated prices. Over 26,000 people follow a twitter account dedicated to highlighting the brand's lack of attention to detail.

Motorway Introduction

In 1999, Granada revealed that WHSmith had expressed interest in forming part of their new motorway shopping centres. The partnership never materialised, but Granada's successor, Moto, would go on to be the first operator to work with WHSmith. Working with multiple shopping brands hadn't worked for them, so Moto turned their attention to their un-branded shop which they had been operating alongside the shopping centres.

Historically service stations had been heavily regulated on the products they could sell, and on the size of their shops. As a result, most service station shops were small and sold products very similar to those sold by WHSmith Travel. At the time, WHSmith Travel were looking to expand, so the stores quickly went nationwide.

To be specific, in 2007 Moto operated a trial store at Toddington. This went nationwide a few months later. Welcome Break followed with a trial at Newport Pagnell and Roadchef with Watford Gap. By 2009, it was everywhere.

All having the same store doesn't do any operator any favour, so they all left WHSmith to cover the essentials while working on a convenience-store partner to run bigger stores next door. Moto had already started with M&S Simply Food, Welcome Break started working with Waitrose and Roadchef found Spar and Boots.

All BP-branded Moto forecourts (except Wetherby), as well as the forecourts at Derby South, Oxford and Telford services, have WHSmith branded stores within the sales shop.


WHSmith operate at many services. They are: [view on a map -  Download KMLrefine search]

Former Locations

WHSmith has been removed from the following services:

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