US retailer Wilsons The Leather Experts has announced that its chief executive Michael Searles is to resign.

He will leave his position on or about 3 April, resigning as a director of the company at the same time.

Searles, who has been CEO of the company since December 2004, said that for both personal and professional reasons the timing is now right for his departure.

Wilsons said that Searles will continue to be available for consulting services for six months from the date of his resignation.

The company said a search to replace him will now follow, with an announcement regarding his successor due within the next few months.

Michael Sweeney, chairman of the board at Wilsons, said: "The board of directors of Wilsons Leather thanks Mike Searles for his dedicated service to the company during these difficult times."

Wilsons Leather operates 228 stores located in 42 US states. Earlier this month it reported having swung to a fourth quarter loss after being hit by a hefty cost for closing 160 of its stores and remodelling 100 others. For the three months to 2 February 2008, the company reported a net loss of $8.4m.