Zale third-quarter same-store sales rose 2.5 percent

Zale Corp., North America’s largest specialty retailer of fine jewelry, reported on Wednesday that third quarter comparable store sales increased 2.5 percent. Total revenues for the period, ended April 30, were $527 million compared to last year’s third quarter revenues of $516 million, an increase of 2.1 percent. Last year’s total revenues include the results of the Bailey Banks & Biddle stores that were closed in the second fiscal quarter, which accounted for $11 million of the company’s revenues.

Last year’s total revenues include the results of the Bailey Banks & Biddle stores that were closed in the second fiscal quarter, which accounted for $11 million of the company’s revenues. Excluding store closures, total revenues increased 4.4 percent over last year’s $505 million.

Year-to-date total revenues increased 1.9 percent to $1.95 billion, compared to $1.9 billion for the same period last year. Year-to-date total revenues include $24 million this year and $40 million last year from the closed Bailey Banks & Biddle stores. Excluding the store closures, total revenues were $1.92 billion, compared to $1.87 billion for the same period last year, an increase of 2.8 percent. Comparable store sales, which exclude the store closures, increased 1.1 percent for the period.

“We delivered results in line with our expectations for the quarter,” said Betsy Burton, interim chief executive officer. “While sales increased slightly above plan, this was offset by a gross margin reduction primarily due to increased promotional and clearance sales at the Zales brand. We will continue to make an effort to move through product that will not be part of our go-forward assortment in a controlled yet effective manner.”

The Dallas-based company will announce its third quarter fiscal 2006 earnings results on May 17.

Zale Corp. operates approximately 2,345 retail locations throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Through its ZLC Direct organization, Zale operates online at www.zales.com and www.baileybanksandbiddle.com. Zale Corp.’s brands include Zales Jewelers, Zales Outlet, Gordon’s Jewelers, Bailey Banks & Biddle, Peoples Jewellers, Mappins Jewellers and Piercing Pagoda.