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Last Updated: Friday, 4 July, 2003, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
WH Smith appoints new chief
WH Smith shop
High Street chain WH Smith has appointed Kate Swann, the managing director of Argos, as its new chief executive.

Current group chief executive Richard Handover will become the firm's chairman, replacing Martin Taylor who is retiring.

"We are very pleased to have attracted an executive of Kate's ability and high promise. Her track record is outstanding," Mr Taylor said.

Ms Swann said she was "delighted" to have the opportunity to lead the firm.

"(WH Smith) benefits from a strong, well-established brand and leading positions in its key markets," she added.

Reviving sales

One of Ms Swann's first tasks will be to try to improve the retailer's performance.

In April, WH Smith - which sells stationery, books and music - said sales had fallen 2% to 1.6bn in the six months to the end of February.

Question marks have been raised over the future of the firm's loss-making US arm, which runs outlets in hotel lobbies and airports.

The business has struggled as the US economy has slowed and from the drop in air travel following the 11 September terror attacks.


Ms Swann began her career at Tesco as a marketing executive.

She subsequently worked for Coca-Cola Schweppes and then Dixons, where she became marketing director of Currys.

Her next move was to the Homebase DIY chain where she progressed to the position of managing director.

She joined the catalogue store retailer Argos - part of the GUS group - in 2000.

WH Smith said on Friday that Ms Swann would probably take up her new role at the firm towards the end of the year.

The company's shares ended the day up 4p at 367p.

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