Swann to exit WH Smith

WH Smith’s brand has been dealt a blow after Kate Swann, the woman widely credited with the retailer’s turnaround, announced she is stepping down.

WH Smith
WH Smith CEO Kate Swann to step down.

She will be succeeded by Steve Clarke, who is currently managing director of the high street arm of the business, in July 2013.

The news comes as WH Smith reports a 10 per cent rise in total profit, despite a 5 per cent fall in sales at its high street stores. Travel stores at airports and train stations reported a 2 per cent rise in total sales.

Swann joined from Argos nine years ago tasked with reversing the chain’s performance following several profit warnings.

Analysts say her departure signals that WH Smith, which has rebounded under her leadership, is struggling.

Numis called the move “unwelcome” while Matt Piner, lead consultant at Conlumino, says it is “a worry” that the cost cutting strategy Swann put in place is “running out of steam”.

He adds that incoming CEO Clarke, faces the “daunting prospect” of relying on sales growth to boost profits.

WH Smith chairman Walker Boyd, said in a statement: “The Board is particularly grateful to Swann for her vision, dedication and leadership which has seen WHSmith go from strength to strength and deliver exceptional shareholder value during her tenure as chief executive. She has built an excellent management team and has put in place a strategy which will continue to deliver for all our stakeholders. We wish her well for the future … Steve has the qualities and experience to lead the company and continue its record of delivering superior shareholder returns.

Swann, who is widely respected in the retail world and the City is likely to go on to a further role at a major UK retailer.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here