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SIGNET GROUP REPORTS 11% HOLIDAY PERIOD SALES GAIN; U.S. JEWELRY BUSINESS ROSE 19%

 NEW YORK, Jan. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Signet Group plc (NASDAQ-NMS: SIGGY, SIGGZ), announced today that in December 1993, Company like for like sales showed an increase of 11% over the same period in 1992; in the 11 months to Dec. 31, 1993 the increase was 6%. For the year to Jan. 29, 1994, the Company expects to return to profitability with pre-tax results slightly above break-even (1992: 40.1 million pounds sterling loss). At the operating level (i.e. profit before interest and taxation), the Company expects the U.S. to show a significant increase from the 20.2 million pounds profit reported in 1992 and the U.K. should also show substantial improvement and be close to break-even compared to a 27.9 million pounds loss in 1992.
 For the month of December, Sterling, Inc., Signet's U.S. jewelry business, outperformed its key competitors and like for like sales were up 19% compared with the same period in 1992. Signet said Sterling has built on its selling and marketing strengths while taking advantage of the upturn in the U.S. economy. The U.S. business now accounts for 55% of total Company sales.
 U.K. jewelry like for like sales in December increased by 6% compared with the same period in 1992. Sales were particularly strong in the last two weeks of the month. Signet operates four main chains in the U.K., including: Ernest Jones, aimed at the higher end of the market selling fine jewelry and watches, which reported a 12% increase in December sales; H. Samuel, directed at the middle market selling jewelry and gifts, reported a 5% sales increase; and Ratners, selling popularly priced gold and silver jewelry and watches, which reported flat sales. Salisburys, which sells a broad range of merchandise from costume jewelry to handbags and other luggage, continues to under perform and like for like sales in December were down 24%.
 The Company said the improved gross margin achieved in 1992 has been maintained and discounts continue to be tightly controlled. In the year to Jan. 29, 1994, there should be a reduction in operating costs of approximately 30 million pounds (at constant exchange rates) in addition to a decrease of over 50 million pounds in the previous year.
 Commenting on the sales results, Mr. James McAdam, Chairman of the Company, said: "The outcome for 1993 signifies a major step forward for the Company. While our business should continue to benefit from further growth in the U.S. economy, emergence from recession in the U.K. has been hesitant and there must be some uncertainty about the effects of the Government's Budget measures on consumer confidence in 1994. However, I am confident that the strength and pace of Sterling Inc.'s performance in the U.S., together with the return to profitability of the core U.K. jewelry businesses bode well for the future."
 London-based Signet is the largest specialty retailer of fine jewelry and fashion accessories in the U.K. and the second largest specialty retailer of fine jewelry in the U.S. In the U.S., the company operates approximately 928 jewelry stores in 44 states under the names Sterling Jewelers, Kay Jewelers, J.B. Robinson, Belden, Hudson Goodman Jewelers, Weisfield, LeRoy's Jewelers, Osterman, Shaw's Jewelers, Friedlander's Jewelers, Roger's Jewelers, and Goodman.
 -0- 1/10/94
 /CONTACT: James McAdam of Michael H. Mitchell of Signet Group plc, in London, 011-44-71-495-2643; or Thomas C. Franco or Jeffrey G. Gibson of Broadgate Consultants, in New York, 212-229-2222/
 (SIGGY)


CO: Signet Group plc ST: New York IN: REA SU:

MP -- NY025 -- 0475 01/10/94 10:07 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 10, 1994
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