Charles J Kleman, whose tenure at Chico's FAS has spanned its transformation from small local retailer to national specialty chain, plans to step down as the firm's executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer as soon as a successor can be selected.

Chico's has begun a national search for his replacement.

Kleman intends to remain involved in investor relations and financial modelling for Chico's and will chair Chico's Charities, the philanthropic group started by the company last year.

Kleman said: "It has been a pleasure to work with everyone in the Chico's family as CFO for the past 18 years and I am gratified to be part of the team that has accomplished so much over my time here, as we moved from a struggling, small retailer in the 80s and 90s to a public company that prides itself on creating a work environment promoting honesty, ethics and treatment of every employee and customer with respect and fairness."

However, he added: "This company has ambitions that, frankly, could benefit from executive skills that I'm not necessarily in a position to bring to the table."

Scott Edmonds, president and chief executive officer of Chico's, commented: "There is simply no way to describe what Charlie has meant to the Chico's organisation. He has been instrumental in creating our unique culture and will always be a part of the company's DNA."

Kleman's decision comes less than two months after Marvin and Helen Gralnick, the founders of the specialty store company focused on mature women, resigned from its board and Michael Weiss succeeded Marvin Gralnick as chairman.

Chico's operates 920 stores under brands including Chico's, White House|Black Market, Soma by Chico's and Fitigues.
 
By Arnold J Karr.