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WH Smith CEO Stephen Clarke to step down

By Sean Farrell

Date: Tuesday 21 May 2019

WH Smith CEO Stephen Clarke to step down

(Sharecast News) - Stephen Clarke is stepping down as chief executive of WH Smith and will be replaced by Carl Cowling, who runs the retailer's high street business.
Clarke joined WH Smith in 2004 and has been chief executive since July 2013. He will leave at the end of October. The FTSE 250 company announced his departure as it reported group sales up 15% in the third quarter and expressed confidence about full-year results.

Cowling, who joined the company in 2014 from Dixons Carphone, will take over from Clarke on 1 November. He ran the travel business before taking over at the high street arm and joined the board in February.

Clarke has steered WH Smith through an increasingly tough retail market by expanding the company's travel division, which has stores in airports and train stations while cutting costs to support profit at the high street business.

The company's shares have almost tripled since Clarke took over but he has faced criticism for shabby stores and high prices for essential products in hospitals including £7.99 for a tube of toothpaste.

Henry Staunton, WH Smith's chairman, said: "Stephen has made an outstanding contribution to WH Smith. He has built an excellent management team and has put in place a proven strategy which will continue to deliver for all our stakeholders."

Travel sales rose 26% in the 11 weeks to 18 May, or 7% excluding the acquisition of US travel retailer InMotion. Like-for-like travel sales rose 3%. High street sales and like-for-like sales fell 1%.

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."

WH Smith shares fell 1.6% to 1,995p at 0815 BST.


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