WHSmith CEO Stephen Clarke to resign

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WHSmith CEO
// WHSmith CEO Stephen Clarke to step down in October after 15 years with the retailer
// He will hand over the reins to Carl Cowling
// Announcement made as part of WHSmith’s third quarter trading update

WHSmith group chief executive Stephen Clarke is poised to step down later this year, after being with the retailer for 15 years.

He is slated to leave office in October, after which Carl Cowling will step in to take over the reins at the start of November.

Of his 15-year stint with WHSmith, Clarke spent the last six years leading the retailer.

Cowling is currently the managing director of WHSmith’s high street arm, having first joined the retailer in 2014 to run its travel arm.

The announcement was made amid WHSmith’s third quarter trading update, in which the books and stationery retailer said its year-to date-sales had jumped after it rolled out new outlets at airports.

Sales in the 11 weeks ending May 18 grew 15 per cent year-on-year, including four per cent growth US retailer InMotion – which it recently acquired in a £155 million deal.

Meanwhile on a like-for-like basis, WHSmith’s sales rose one per cent year-on-year.

In its travel arm, which incorporates stores located at train stations and airports, total sales rose 26 per cent and like-for-like sales rose three per cent.

Without InMotion’s 115 stores, total sales in WHSmith’s travel arm grew seven per cent.

The retailer’s high street division was the weakest link as usual, with total sales down one per cent and like-for-like sales down one per cent.

However, gross margin continues to improve, and cost savings were delivered in line with expectations.

“We have delivered a strong sales performance in the third quarter in both our travel and high street businesses,” Clarke said.

“Whilst there is some uncertainty in the broader economic and political environment, we are well placed as we approach the key summer trading period in travel.”

“We continue to focus on profitable growth, cash generation and investing in the business to position us well for the future.”

“We remain confident in the outcome for the full year.”

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