Sterling Opening 60 to 70 U.S. Stores

Sterling Jewelers plans to open 60 to 70 stores in the United States in the next year, executives said Oct. 1 at parent company Signet’s New York Investor Day.

The retailer is opening 48 stores this fiscal year.

The jewelry giant also plans to increase its lineup of brands, digital efforts, and television advertising, executives told investors.

Among the new brands is Shades of Wonder, featuring brown stones from Australia, as well as a brand built around blue diamonds, said Ed Hrabak, chief operating officer of U.S. division.

“Colored diamonds are a huge story of this year,” Signet CEO Michael Barnes said later.  

Barnes noted that three years ago, only 19 percent of the company’s product was branded or exclusive. Now it’s 26 percent.

“We continue to see the brands and exclusive product continue to grow,” he said. “This sets up apart. These great exclusive brands—you can’t get them anyplace else.”

The company will also launch new websites for both Kay and Jared, using virtual inventory held by vendors, and increase its social media efforts. Both Kay and Jared debuted their Facebook pages earlier this year.

George Murray, senior vice president of marketing for the U.S. division, reported that e-commerce sales have risen 40 percent over the last year, and that the company has risen from 10th to fifth on a list of jewelry e-commerce sites from Internet Retailer.

In spite of all the increased digital focus, the company’s main advertising vehicle remains television, and Murray promised a greater TV ad budget this year.

Hrabak also touted the company’s new initiative to buy rough from diamond miner Rio Tinto.

“We believe that we are largest buyer of polished diamonds on the planet,” Hrabak said. “It is imperative for us to continue to strengthen our supply chain.”

Executives said the company is the leading jeweler in the United States, with a 10.4 percent market share.

When asked to assess the competitive landscape, Sterling Jewelers president and CEO Mark Light commented that Zale Corp. “seems to be gaining momentum.”

“We are watching them, and making sure that we stay ahead of them,” he said.

The remaining independent jewelers “seem to be getting stronger,” he added, “and we take them very, very seriously.”