The chief executive of young fashion giant River Island stepped down this week after 20 years with the company.

As exclusively revealed by Retail Week on Monday, Richard Bradbury announced his intention to retire with immediate effect, to be replaced by Ben Lewis, the nephew of the founder of the company Bernard Lewis.

54-year-old Bradbury is to stay with the company as a consultant, and said that he and Ben Lewis had worked together closely to ensure a smooth transition.

Ben Lewis was previously chief operating officer of the business and has worked there for 20 years, starting as a trainee store manager and latterly overseeing the launch of the ecommerce operations.

He said that the continued development of the online business would be a priority. “As chief operating officer I was very keen that River Island embraced ecommerce and I am pleased it is proving so successful,” he said. “I now look forward to the continued development of this channel as we drive River Island onwards as a leading online and high street fashion retailer.”

Bradbury is the only person outside the Lewis family to have been on the River Island board. He said he had been in talks with the Lewis family about his plans to retire over a long period in order to achieve an orderly handover. “I decided 18 months ago that I wanted to retire and we have been working things around to enable that to come to fruition.”

Bernard Lewis said: “Richard joined this business more than 20 years ago and it has been a pleasure to work together. We have been working to plan his succession and that is now complete.”

Bradbury added that by stepping down it will give him more time to concentrate on other interests, such as charity work, and allow him to have a different perspective onthe business.

In recent months River Island has been branching out into new product areas such as maternitywear and this month it launched childrenswear.

Founded by Bernard Lewis as Lewis Separates 62 years ago, River Island now has more than 250 stores.