WH Smith boss Kate Swann to step down
Thursday 11 October 2012
WH Smith chief executive Kate Swann is to quit the retail chain in June after nine years at the helm.
One of the sector's most respected bosses, Ms Swann announced her departure at the same time as a 10 per cent hike in WH Smith's annual profits to £102 million. This compares to the £135 million loss it made in 2004.
Since then, Ms Swann has shifted the company's focus away from lower-margin CDs and DVDs towards books and stationery, as well as reduced its dependence on the Christmas season.
The chain now has 618 stores on the high street and another 619 at travel sites such as airports and train stations.
The chain benefited from strong sales of blockbuster erotic novel Fifty Shades Of Grey in the year to August 31, although its like-for-like sales were still 5 per cent lower across the period as cost savings helped boost profitability.
Ms Swann will hand over the reins to Steve Clarke, who is managing director of the retailer's high street division, having joined the group in 2004.
Shares fell 7 per cent as the City reacted to Ms Swann's departure plans.
Kate Calvert, a retail analyst at Seymour Pierce stockbrokers, said Ms Swann had done a "fantastic job orchestrating the turnaround of WH Smith".
She added: "This is a blow though she is handing over to a safe pair of hands in Steve Clarke, who is managing director of the high street business."
With trading expected to remain challenging, Ms Swann outlined plans for another £12 million in cost savings, having cut £17 million in the past financial year.
Today's results showed trading profits up 4 per cent across its high street stores and 11% in the travel arm.
It said performance of its Kobo e-book reader - launched recently to compete with Amazon's Kindle - was "ahead of plan" as it rolled out Kobo shops throughout 100 of its largest stores.
But sales declines across both the high street and travel divisions - of 5 per cent and 3 per cent respectively - highlight the difficult trading conditions.
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 3 Bali nine: Welcome to 'Execution Island' – the Indonesian holiday resort where foreigners are sent to die
- 4 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
- 5 Why you're almost certainly more like your father than your mother
Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook CEO's one simple test for who to hire
Bali nine: Welcome to 'Execution Island' – the Indonesian holiday resort where foreigners are sent to die
'A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy': The statement that shocked the world... except India
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Saudi Arabia executions now at 'unprecedented rate' after kingdom kills four more in two days
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
iJobs Money & Business
£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...
£30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...