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% hike in WH Smith’s annual profits to £102m. This compares to the £135m 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% 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.