Swann migrates from WH Smith to SSP

Kate Swann has been appointed the chief executive of food chain operator SSP. Is it another case of trimming the fat?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 21 Jan 2015
All-change for Kate Swann, the former chief executive of WH Smith, who has been appointed as head of SSP, the food chain operator which owns Costa wannabe Caffe Ritazza and baguette store Upper Crust, as well as Millie’s Cookies and Camden Food Co. On the surface, WH Smith and SSP don’t have many similarities – but SSP also specialises in helping brands (like M&S, Burger King – and WH Smith) expand into travel hubs like stations and airports. So there are parallels...

Last year, SSP posted sales of £1.7bn, with like-for-like sales growing at almost 3% a year. So the company isn’t going to need quite the same treatment as WH Smith, which was seriously floundering when Swann first took the reins 10 years ago. In the past, she’s also held senior roles at Argos and Tesco, as well as at Homepride foods and Coca Cola Schweppes, back in 1992.

It’s a surprise move by Swann: she handed in her notice in October and stepped down from WH Smith at the end of June. There had been rumours she was in talks to take on a role at Marks & Spencer, although there were suggestions she might be planning to go to a private equity firm.

SSP chairman Vagn Soerensen took the opportunity to indulge in some gratuitous management speak: ‘SSP will benefit from Kate’s vast retail experience from WH Smith in accelerating growth and working with business partners, while continuously improving customer experience.’

Right. 

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