WH Smith boss Kate Swann to leave on a high as profits jump

 
Kasmira Jefford
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KATE SWANN, WH Smith’s outgoing chief executive, yesterday rounded-off her last set of annual results after a decade at the chain with a strong rise in half year profits.

Swann, who will hand over the reins to the stationer’s high street managing director Steve Clarke in June, said like-for-like sales at the newsagent slid five per cent during the six months to the end of February.

But cost-cutting measures helped improve margins and pre-tax profits jumped by 4.5 per cent to £69m, as the company’s travel operations in airports and railway stations posted profits up seven per cent to £29m.

The group also revealed it has bought Past Times, the gifts retailer which collapsed into administration earlier this year, which it plans “to use in a similar way” to the Gadgetshop brand it bought in 2010.

It also plans to launch another 100 Kobo concessions within its stores selling e-readers.

During her ten-year tenure Swann has defied critics who predicted WH Smith’s demise, steering the business out of its flagging entertainment categories, investing in its travel outlets and initiating buyback programmes.