Whitehall holiday sales up 8.1%

Whitehall Jewellers, Inc. said Tuesday that sales for November and December 2003 rose 8.1% to $120.9 million, compared to the same period in 2002. Comparable store sales rose 6.4% for the two-month period, versus a 2.6% decline for November and December 2002.

Year-to-date sales through Dec. 31, 2003 increased 1.4% to $329.0 million, versus the same period the previous year, the company said. Comparable store sales for the same period fell 0.7%, compared to a 1.3% decrease during the previous year.

“We are very pleased to report these strong November and December sales results, which reflect both the continued success of our new sales initiatives instituted early in 2003 and robust holiday sales,” Hugh Patinkin, Whitehall chairman and CEO said in a statement. “We are also particularly encouraged with the combination of increased unit sales and higher average merchandise sales.”

He added, “While sales were strong, we expect negative pressure on fourth quarter profitability due to substantially higher professional fees related to the ongoing Capital Factors lawsuit and related matters. In addition, we expect the increased mix of watch sales and higher gold prices to negatively impact merchandise margins.”

Whitehall Jewellers, Inc. is a specialty retailer of fine jewelry, operating 381 stores in 38 states. The Company operates stores in regional and superregional shopping malls under the names Whitehall Co. Jewellers, Lundstrom Jewelers, and Marks Bros. Jewelers.