Signet profits rose 12%

London-based jewelry retailer Signet Group PLC on Wednesday reported group pretax profit for the year just ended rose 12%, but warned that U.K. sales would slow in 2002, the Dow Jones Newswires reported.

Pretax profit for the year to Feb. 2 was $263 million, up from $234.1 million the previous year, the news service reported. Sales rose to $2.27 million compared with $1.98 million, up 14% or 3% on a same-store basis.

Chief Executive Terry Burman reportedly said the group had weathered the slowdown in the U.S., even growing its market share in the process, and had an “excellent” year in the U.K. But he addded the future appears to present a mixed bag. While the U.S. is showing tentative but still uncertain signs of recovery, the pace of consumer spending in the U.K. is expected to moderate, he said.

“We are factoring in a slower pace of growth for the current year in the U.K., ” he reportedly said, although he didn’t reveal a figure.

Signet has 1,631 stores. It does 70% of its business in the U.S., where its main chains are Kays Jewelers and Jared. The remaining 30% of business is through its Ernest Jones, H. Samuel and Leslie Davis stores in the U.K.

In the U.S. same-store sales rose 0.6% on the year, although this figure rose to 4.6% in the fourth quarter after the U.S. economy showed signs of improving, the news service reported. In the U.K., same-store sales rose 9.4% over the year.

Burman reportedly said the retailer plans to double the amount of space it has in the U.S. over the next 10 years. This expansion will include enlarging the Jared chain to 200 from 55 stores.

Signet is in the position to make “small, medium, or large” acquisitions in the U.S., but has selective criteria, he reportedly said.

Signet said it is in the early stages of developing a broadcast advertising campaign for its U.K. chains.