UK-based outdoor retailer Blacks Leisure Group has parted ways with chief executive Russell Hardy.

The high street firm said Hardy had stepped down by mutual agreement, and that its leisure group finance director Keith Fleming had become acting chief executive.

Fleming has held senior roles within the retail sector including finance director of B&Q and both finance director and managing director of Woolworths.

Blacks chairman David Bernstein said: "The board would like to thank Russell for his contribution to the company and wishes him all the best for the future. Under his leadership much has been achieved and we are confident that the right strategy is in place.

"The priority going forward is to implement with urgency the necessary actions for Blacks Leisure to prosper as the leading specialist retailer in the growing outdoor and boardwear markets."

Having decided to shut down 45 of its loss-making Millets stores, Blacks posted a full-year loss of GBP13.8m (US$27.4m) in May, compared to a profit of GBP21.4m the prior year. 

The embattled firm, which came and went as a takeover target for Sports Direct International, said it was instigating a search process following Hardy's departure and would consider external candidates for the role.

Russell Hardy added:  "Blacks Leisure Group has iconic brands, an exciting business proposition and a strong team behind it. I want to thank everyone I have worked with for their hard work and commitment and I wish the business much success in the future."

The company said today that its outlook for the first half of the year depends on the key summer season, but added that camping and summer clothing lines have started well. Its shares rose 3%, or 7.5 pence, to GBP257.5 following today's (4 June) announcement.