Eight Things I Learned From the Zale, Signet, and Tiffany Earnings Calls

Some nuggets worth chewing over from last week’s earnings calls from Zale Corp., Signet, and Tiffany & Co.

– Both Signet and Zale expect good holidays.

“We’re very pleased with the way the first three weeks have gone,” said Signet CEO Michael Barnes. “We think that we’re well prepared to have a full, very good holiday season.” 

And while Zale CEO Theo Killion allowed that he “feels good” about the holiday, chief financial officer Thomas A. Haubenstricker was a little more cautious about November, calling its “performance so far in line with our expectations.” 

– Tiffany’s U.S. sales varied by region.

“The New York flagship store posted a solid increase, primarily resulting from higher sales to foreign tourists from China and Europe,” said vice president of investor relations Mark Aaron. “There was softness along much of the East Coast, strength along the West Coast, and there were substantial sales declines in Hawaii and Guam due to lower Japanese tourist sales.” 

– Zale is targeting younger consumers.

Don’t recognize the music in the latest Zale commercial? That’s because it’s not aimed at you. 

“This year, Lord Huron provided a soundtrack for our Balloons commercial,” he said. “Lord Huron joins Various Cruelties, Alabama Shakes, Black Keys, and Florence and the Machine as artists you may have never heard of. The good news, however, is that one of our critical target audiences for bridal, the millennials, has heard of them.”

This is refreshing because so few jewelers really seem to be targeting the next generation. Speaking of which… 

– Kay and Jared have mobile apps.

Check them out here and here. (None for Zale yet, apparently. Tiffany had one for a while.)

– Expect Signet’s recently purchased diamond factory in Botswana to polish a lot of princess cuts.

“Having control over what we decide to cut and polish is very important because there are certain cuts that sometimes can be a little bit short in supply,” said Barnes. “For instance, we have a very strong business in princess cut diamonds, and there have been times where it’s been tough getting the supply we need. …This gives us the opportunity…to optimize what our customers are demanding in our stores.”

Signet also announced that it is opening a new permanent diamond-buying office in Mumbai.

And while no one mentioned this on the call, it should be obvious why Signet would want to buy a factory in Botswana. 

– Could Zale undertake a similar diamond-sourcing initiative to Signet (and Tiffany)? 

It’s not saying.

 “[It’s] certainly not something that we’re looking at in any critical way for near-term sourcing savings,” said Haubenstricker when asked. “It wouldn’t be appropriate to speculate on what [long-term] strategies would be at this point in time.”

In the 1980s, Zale was a De Beers sightholder, with a polishing factory in Puerto Rico.

– Zale’s newest proprietary brand is a heart necklace called the Heart Within, which it will prominently feature on Valentine’s Day.

It can be seen here.

And while executives talked up the success of the Vera Wang LOVE and Celebration diamond collections, they didn’t mention the men’s line with Shaquille O’Neal. (Which got mixed reviews from at least one person at Buzzfeed.) 

– And finally, Zale isn’t calling the Celebration Fire “the most brilliant diamond in the world” anymoreon the conference call or online.

In fact, the Zales site no longer even mentions its brilliance, instead touting its “extraordinary light and intensity.” Which I guess you could say is a victory for Sterling.

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JCK News Director