Henry Walton Smith and his wife Anna opened a stall in 1792 that sold newsprint products in London, and this started a long trail of events that lead to WHSmith becoming the world’s first chain store. Books were a major stock item in their earlier years, and their retail network can be credited with the creation of the ISBN system – a process of identifying any book, DVD, or similar media title with the use of a number and barcode.
Much of the chain’s development was due to its presence in major railway stations, and similar outlets can now be found in motorway service stations and airports. A number of their stores pioneered the ‘Honesty Box,’ and this allowed customers to purchase a newspaper without having to queue for a long period of time – these boxes enabled many passengers to make their intended train without delays. Stationery, greetings cards, video games, and other entertainment products also make up a significant proportion of the WHSmith product range.
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