Last fall, when Zale announced in a conference call that sales had dropped by double digits, it was an early indicator that this was not a normal downturn.
So we can only be hopeful that Signet’s announcement that U.S. same-store sales for the first quarter were down 2.6% – a result that in a normal year would be slagged off as mediocre and a sign of trouble – is an indicator that the market is stabilizing. Certainly, it’s a nice achievement in a week when other public jewelry companies reported declines of 27% and 50%.
It’s interesting that chairman Terry Burman noted that Jared had weaker results than Kay because of the “general weakness in spending among households with above average incomes.” This is also a switch from even a year ago, where everyone was stampeding towards the high end.
Burman also said that “differentiated merchandise [is] performing particularly well” – and it seems there is still strength in its ultra-differentiated Jane Seymour “Open Hearts” collection. This line, which I will write about in JCK next month, is a canny mixture of a solid celebrity spokesperson with a clever and meaningful product concept. Clearly the line is known enough to inspire wicked parodies – surely a sign it’s seeped into mass consciousness. (There’s some frank language at that link – but it’s funny.)
One of the things that people always say about Sterling is there is nothing magical about what they do – they simply attend to retail basics, and do it well, in a relatively stable corporate culture. Yet, judging from how Signet is now dominating its competitors, that could be a bigger accomplishment than it seems.
Now, all eyes are on Zale, which already has people nervous with the Bailey lease situation. Any guesses how they’ll do?