Swindon-based books and stationery retailer WH Smith today said its chief executive Kate Swann will step down next June as it revealed sales of the Fifty Shades erotic fiction trilogy had helped it combat tough high street trading conditions.
Mrs Swann, pictured, took the helm of the business nine years ago at one of the toughest times in its history. She introduced a massive restructuring which transformed and streamlined the business – splitting the distribution arm off into a separate company, Smiths News, also based in Swindon, opening more stores in railways stations and airports and concentrating on higher-margins items such as cards and stationery.
She will be replaced by Steve Clarke, previously managing director of WH Smith’s high street stores business.
Pre-tax profits for the year to the end of August rose 10% to £102m – mainly due to cost-cutting. Annual like-for-like sales, which exclude new store openings, fell 5%. Fiction sales had been weak in the first half of the year, before picking up thanks to the Fifty Shades series of books, it said.
It also announced an additional £12m of cost-saving measures, bringing its total cost-cutting target to £25m over the next three years.