WH Smith chief executive Stephen Clarke has decided to step down at the end of October after 15 years with the company.
Carl Cowling will replace him on 1 November. Cowling is currently managing director of WH Smith’s high street business.
The news came alongside a trading update for the 11 weeks to 18 May, during which group sales increased 15%, or 4% excluding US airport travel retailer InMotion, with like-for-like sales up 1%.
Its travel business enjoyed a 26% uplift in sales, or 7% excluding InMotion, and like-for-like sales climbed 3%. Total sales in the high street business fell 1% and like-for-like sales also fell 1%.
“It really has been a great privilege to lead WH Smith for the last six years and I am extremely proud of what we have achieved during my time as chief executive,” said Clarke.
“WH Smith has a first-class team who are focused on running the business in the best interests of our customers, shareholders and employees. I am also delighted that the board has appointed Carl as my successor. I know that WH Smith will continue to thrive under his leadership for years to come. I am fully committed to working with Carl in order to ensure a smooth transition. I have no immediate plans other than to take a break.”
Cowling joined the business in 2014 as WH Smith Travel MD. He joined from Carphone Warehouse where he was MD of global partnerships.
“I am delighted that Carl will be Stephen’s successor,” said WH Smith chairman Henry Staunton. “Carl has been instrumental in the development and execution of our successful strategy that has led to the company’s outstanding performance.”