Ash cloud hits airport sales at WH Smith

WH Smith yesterday blamed disruption caused by the the Icelandic volcanco ash cloud for denting sales during the 14 weeks to 5 June.

The company’s 570 high street stores saw like-for-like sales fall four per cent in the period. The group said like-for-like sales in the third quarter had fallen by four per cent at the 500 stores in its travel operations, as fewer passengers passed through its airport shops. Stripping out the effect of the volcano disruption, like-for-like sales would have been down by just two per cent, it added.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, WH Smith said: “Whilst airport passenger numbers have remained soft, we continue to outperform.” WH Smith said the economic environment remained uncertain, adding that it would continue to be cautious about consumer spending.

The store also yesterday announced the appointment of Walker Boyd as the new non-executive chairman to replace the retiring Robert Walker.

Boyd re-joined the board on 1 February 2010 and will become chairman on 1 September.

Group chief executive Kate Swann said: “The board and I are delighted that Walker Boyd has agreed to become chairman of WH Smith. Walker has extensive retail and finance experience which will serve the company and its shareholders well.

Boyd said: “I am excited at the opportunities that lie ahead for WH Smith and I look forward to working closely with Kate and her team.”

As of 31 August 2010, non-executive director Luke Mayhew will also be stepping down from the board and will be replaced by the appointment of Henry Staunton, who is a non-executive director at Legal & General, Merchants Trust, Capital & Counties Properties and retailer New Look.