Claire’s stores chief retires; huge increase in jewelry sales

Claire’s Stores Inc. said that Bonnie Schaefer and Marla Schaefer, daughters of company founder Rowland Schaefer, have been named co-chief executives and co-chairwomen while their father has decided to relinquish his position and assume the title of chairman emeritus, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.

For the last year Bonnie and Marla Schaefer have been running the company under titles of acting co-chairwomen and acting CEOs while their father was on medical leave.

At the same time, the Pembroke Pines, Fla.-based store said that increased fashion jewelry sales helped Claire’s bring in fiscal 2004 third quarter income of $25.3 million, more than double the $12.4 million for last year’s similar quarter, the company reportedly said.

In an analyst conference call Bonnie Schaefer reportedly said: “We have worked with him for most of our lives and can only hope we can ably follow in his footsteps and make him proud.” Rowland Schaefer, 87, will continue to advise and “check in on all of us,” she added.

“We are happy and confident to know we have the backing of our dad and we have him for advice and counsel,” Marla Schaefer reportedly said later in a phone interview.

In the conference call, Marla Schaefer reportedly said that jewelry sales for Claire’s and Icing by Claire’s reached 61% and 63%, respectively, of total sales. That, noted Chief Financial Officer Ira Kaplan, is the highest percentage of sales for jewelry going back 17 years.

“Jewelry continues to play a major role in North American business,” Marla Schaefer reportedly said. Icing by Claire’s is the chain’s store targeted to older teens and young women.

Total sales for the quarter ended Nov. 1 increased 15 percent to $264.2 million, compared to $230 million for the same period last year. Same store sales were up 8 percent.

Claire’s was expected to earn 47 cents for the third-quarter on sales of $261 million, the average estimates of five analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Claire’s said fourth-quarter sales should rise as much as 10 percent to $350 million to $354 million. Profit is expected to rise to as much as $55 million, or $1.12 a share, excluding costs for Rowland Schaefer’s retirement, from $40.2 million, or 82 cents, a year earlier. He’ll get as much as $11 million in benefits, the company said, reducing fourth-quarter profit by 11 cents to 14 cents a share.

The company forecast sales growth of 6% at stores open at least a year.

Claire’s operates about 2,971 stores in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan, and the Caribbean.