Signet profits rise despite tough U.S. climate

Signet Group, the British and U.S. jewelry retailer, reported a better-than-expected 4% increase in group pre-tax profits on Wednesday despite a still challenging retail environment in the United States, Reuters reported.

The company, which trades from Kay Jewelers and Jared, The Galleria of Jewelry, in the United States and as H Samuel and Ernest Jones in Britain, posted pre-tax profits of $57.95 million compared to 38.7 million last year, on a 20% rise in group sales to approximately $897 million, Reuters reported.

“We are pleased with the first half results which reflect the underlying strength of the group,” Group Chief Executive Terry Burman said in a statement. “The UK business did extremely well again. The U.S. business moved further ahead of the competition and gained market share in a very challenging retail environment.”

The company said in the United States, which accounts for 74% of group sales, same store sales for its core business in August had continued in line with the second quarter, which saw a 3.4% fall. Overall U.S. same store sales fell 1.3% in the first half, Reuters reported.

The UK performance was better with a 10% increase in like-for-like sales over the first half as a whole, with gross margins slightly above last year’s level, Reuters reported.

Burman said the company took encouragement from the group’s resilient performance in the first six months, but the outcome for the year as a whole would depend on the trading environment on both sides of the Atlantic in the crucial Christmas period, Reuters reported.

He said the economic outlook remained uncertain in the United States and recent interest rate and tax cuts had yet to show through in consumer spending. Consumer confidence remained high in the UK, however, although some slowdown in spending later in the year could not be discounted, Reuters reported.