The U.S. market drives Signet to a 5% sales gain in first quarter

Signet Group Plc, the world’s biggest specialty jeweler, reported a 3.3% increase in first-quarter same-store sales on Thursday as a strong U.S. performance offset a slacking U.K. market. Total sales for the quarter were $698 million for the London-based company—a 4.9% increase from the first quarter of 2004.

In the U.S., where Signet makes two thirds of its sales under the trading names Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, the company had a strong first quarter, with total sales up 8.6% to $525.3 million and same-store sales up 7.1%.

In the U.K., things were quite different for Signet, which trades under the H. Samuel and Ernest Jones names. Same-store sales for the quarter fell 6.2% and total sales declined 5%, coming in at $172.7 million.

“In the UK … the period has seen a marked deterioration in the general retail environment,” Terry Burman, Signet chief executive said.

Signet operates 1,758 jewelry stores in the U.S. and U.K.