The chief executive and head of finance at UK footwear retailer Clarks have both stepped down from their roles “with immediate effect”.

In a statement, Clarks said CEO Melissa Potter and CFO Robin Beacham have left their roles, with no reason given for their departures. The retailer added that the board believes new leadership will help it “meet and overcome the challenges ahead”.

While a search is underway, in the interim, non-executive chairman Thomas O'Neill has been appointed executive chairman, and finance controller Mike Coley as CFO until successors are found.

O'Neill said of the recruitment process: “The search will be a key focus for the board, to ensure that the new leaders of the business have a clear understanding of what it takes to build a successful future, ensuring that Clarks continues to resonate and attract consumers across the world with innovative products that stand for quality and exemplify the very heritage that Clarks works so hard to maintain and develop.”

Clarks, which operates around 1,000 stores globally, said that in recent years it has faced “a highly demanding commercial and economic environment, with increasing competition and intensified customer expectations”.

Indeed, in its last fiscal year, the company saw a 3.2% fall in revenues as a result of heavy discounting by rivals. Pre-tax profits were up 1.4%.

O'Neill added: “Melissa and Robin have helped to navigate Clarks through significant changes in the sector and turbulent markets conditions across the globe. We wish them every success in their future ventures and endeavours.”