Swann song is ode to joy as WH Smith's Christmas is boosted by celebrity books
Kate Swann, the outgoing chief executive of WH Smith, hailed "good profit" growth over Christmas at the stationery group, as Jamie Oliver served up a treat with his latest book.
The celebrity chef's 15-Minute Meals was WH Smith's "biggest selling" book over the past 20 weeks and the autobiographies of the comedian Miranda Hart and singer Cheryl Cole were also popular.
But the allure of the passion novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, has worn off after barnstorming sales last year. Ms Swann said it had now dropped out of the top 20 book chart and added: "It was really a summer phenomenon". Although she admitted it could be a "bit challenging" for book sales when it passes last summer's spike, WH Smith is still expected to grow its profit to £106m for the year to August.
Ms Swann, who will have been at the group for 10 years when she steps down in June, said it delivered a "good profit performance across the group" over the 20 weeks to January 20. She will be replaced by Steve Clarke, presently the managing director of its 600-store plus the high street division. Her record means that she is unlikely to be short of offers from the retail, or other, sectors.
Ms Swann has been feted for growing profits at WH Smith since she joined in 2003 and for delivering shareholder value, partly by exiting from the low-margin DVD and CD categories but also by expanding its travel division.
The travel business – which also has more than 600 shops in airports, railway stations and hospitals – again boasted "improved" margins over the 20 weeks, although its underlying sales fell by 4 per cent. Repeating a pattern of recent years, WH Smith's high-street business saw its like-for-like sales fall by 5 per cent.
But Ms Swann said: "Both businesses are very cash generative and continue to return cash to shareholders." In its latest £50m share buy-back, WH Smith has already purchased more than £15.8m shares.
Ms Swann said its fledgling Funky Pigeon greeting card outlets had their "biggest ever Christmas".
Shares in WH Smith declined by 1.76p, to 650p.
- 1 Michael Brown shooting: Police shoot and kill second young black man near Ferguson
- 2 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns aged 27
- 4 Cilla Black defends Cliff Richard: 'I am positive that the allegations are without foundation'
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
James Foley 'beheaded': PM cuts holiday short for emergency meeting on British response to latest Isis atrocity
Michael Brown shooting: Police shoot and kill second young black man near Ferguson
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns aged 27
James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
Iraq crisis: Islamic State's message to America - 'We will drown you all in blood'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
iJobs Money & Business
£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...
£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...
£350 - £365 per day: Orgtel: Manager, SAS, Data Warehouse, Banking, Bristol - ...
£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Linux, SQL Se...