WH SMITH – How can we protect a company’s business interests while engaging in public health issues?
We began working for WH Smith when we advised the Chief Executive on several high profile political issues facing the company, including reports that their products were more expensive in hospitals than on the high street, and that the company was not passing on the VAT relief enjoyed by some travellers at UK airports. Latterly, WH Smith faced growing calls not to sell products deemed high in fat, sugar or salt in their shops situated in NHS hospitals.
In each case, we advised the company on how it should articulate the issue, which arguments it should make, who it should engage with and seek the support of, what solutions it should put forward that would provide a political win while not impacting the business operationally.
We helped the company to emerge from these controversies and public policy concerns with only a marginal commercial impact.
We now work with the retailer on a retained basis as the amount of political issues facing the company that requires a need for WH Smith to be able to articulate a position to civil servants and MPs has grown. This has included the franchising of Post Offices, proposed controls on the sale of foods high in fat, sugar or salt in retail outlets, and the introduction of a deposit return scheme to reduce plastics waste.