Paul Zahra, chief executive officer and managing director of Australian department store retailer David Jones, has resigned.

Zahra, who is stepping down for "personal reasons," took the helm at David Jones three years ago when the company was facing what it described as a "range of difficult issues".

Since then, the group said he has guided the business through the aftermath of the global financial crisis and a challenging retail environment, as well as leading the company's 'Future Strategic Direction Plan', which is well into implementation.

The retailer has started an "extensive national and international search" for Zahra's successor, which "could take some time". Zahra will continue to lead the business until a replacement has been appointed. 

David Jones chairman Peter Mason said: "Paul will leave David Jones in a solid financial position and I thank him for his contribution as CEO. I look forward to working with Paul to ensure a smooth transition of his role to his successor."

Zahra added: "Whilst much has been achieved and the company is well placed for the future, I believe it's time for a change for me personally."