U.S. Sales Drive Strong Holiday Performance for Signet; Plans to Open New U.S. Chain

Signet Group plc, London, said Thursday that same-store sales increased 5.9 percent during the nine-week Christmas holiday period, ended Dec. 30, compared with the same period of the prior year.

U.S. same-store sales, which accounts for 74 percent of total Group sales, increased 7.5 percent for the holiday period. In total dollars, the increase was 13.9 percent, the company said. In the U.K., same-store sales rose 1.7 percent for the period.

“In the U.S., the business again significantly outperformed its main competition and increased market share,” said Terry Burman, Signet chief executive. “Jared, the off-mall destination superstores, performed strongly, as did Kay, which built further on its sector-leading position. The divisional operating profit is anticipated to be ahead for the year as a whole.”

In the 48 weeks, ended Dec. 30, 2006, Group same-store sales increased 5.5 percent. Total sales rose by 9.9 percent for the period at constant exchange rates and 6.9 percent on a reported basis

Burman said that profit before tax for 2006/07 fiscal year (53 weeks) is expected to fall between £205 million and £212 million ($398 million and $412 million).

In other Signet news, the company plans to open a new U.S. jewelry chain, according to published reports.

Burman said the company will make a sizable acquisition to kick start the plans and was in talks with a rival over the possibility of buying its stores, Reuters reports.

Signet would brand the new stores and many of its current 300 regional stores under the J.B Robinson name which would be marketed as a slightly more upmarket brand than its U.S. Kay stores, Burman reportedly said.

Burman reportedly said it would only be interested in stores in prime locations in malls and would need at least another 250 stores to make the venture worthwhile.

Signet operates 1,896 specialty retail jewelry stores, including 1,314 stores in the U.S., where the Group trades as “Kay Jewelers,” “Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry,” and under a number of regional names; And operates 582 stores in the U.K., where the Group trades as “H.Samuel,” “Ernest Jones,” and “Leslie Davis.”